By 2010, Britons will be top spenders on still and sparkling wine, surging ahead of their neighbours in Germany, Italy and France, according to a new study commissioned by Vinexpo.

This market will be worth nearly £5.5bn at current exchange and tax rates, the study conducted by the International Wine and Spirit Record (IWSR) says.

Britons will buy over 1.8bn bottles – out of a gobal total 31.8bn. While increase in consumption of red and white wine will be in the single digits, rosé sales are set to soar 25% in the next three years.

Vinexpo chief Robert Beynat suggested that both retailers and value producers take note of the growth rate for wine over £5.20 per bottle, which is faster than that of cheaper wine.

‘The good news is more Britons are drinking, and drinking better,’ he said. ‘You are already willing to spend more per bottle – even after tax – and will continue to do so.

‘The UK is one of the most competitive markets for producers. You have excellent access to wine from all over the world, very strong distribution, and a long history of drinking good wine, especially from France.’

Beynat also highlighted the challenge that France will continue to face from Australia, which is already the top exporter to the UK.

Even though the UK’s spending on wine by 2010 will have grown 3.5 times faster than that of the rest of the world, in terms of volume, the country will fall into fifth place behind France, Italy and Germany.

And everyone will lag behind the Americans, who will not only continue to spend the most, but also will drink the most.

And while the study indicates that global consumption is projected to increase at twice the rate of production, there will be no shortage as many producing countries will resume planting, after a slowdown due to fears of oversupply.

Indeed, both Beynat and Jean-Marie Chadronnier, president of Vinexpo and also of Bordeaux négociant CVBG Dourthe-Kressman, said year on year the grape surplus was not increasing but staying at around 30m hectolitres. This would be soaked up by increased in sales around the world.

With this in mind, they condemned the European Commission’s policy on grubbing up vines.

‘This policy puts France in a very difficult position, as we are in competition with countries where growers are allowed to produce as much as they want,’ said Chadronnier.

‘We agree that something needs to be done. Wine is the only product for which we find it acceptable to pay for overproduction, and the European Commission is right to be fed up with subsidising distillation,’ he added. ‘But this is the wrong way to solve the problem.’

Written by Maggie Rosen