Fans of California wine in the UK have no need to worry, according to the US state's Wine Institute, which has quashed speculation that it's pulling funding out of the country.

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News that California’s Wine Institute was parting ways with its long-standing representative in the UK, John McLaren, led to reports that the trade body was to close its UK office.

Venla Freeman, who worked with McLaren, is also leaving.

But, the Wine Institute denied that it was shutting down its UK operations.

It is seeking a new pr agency in the UK and its marketing spend there is set to rise in the coming year, it said on 19 August.

Its annual tasting in the UK, which acts as a showcase for California wines, will be held in the autumn rather than spring. This will begin next year, on 25 September.

‘California wines have made great progress in the UK in the past decade,’ said Linsey Gallagher, vice president of international marketing for the Wine Institute.

‘We appreciate the contributions of John McLaren and Venla Freeman to this success.’

McLaren has worked for the Institute in London for 21 years.

The UK received a quarter of all US wine exports by volume in 2015, according to Institute figures. That’s the equivalent of around 153 million bottles.

California constitutes 90% of US wine exports.

In February, McLaren praised the strong momentum of California wine in the UK.

‘California is better placed here than it has ever been before, and we expect further growth in 2016 and beyond,’ he said.

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