Bordeaux's exports of cheap wine to Australia are increasing massively - but still making little impact on the country's wine-buying habits.

AFP reports that sales of Bordeaux retailing under AUS$10 (€6.04) have shot up in the last year.

A spokesperson for Dan Murphy’s, a chain of warehouse-style beer, wines and spirits shops, said that sales of cheap Bordeaux had grown 65% in the last year alone.

Dan Murphy’s carries Remy Ferbras Cotes du Rhone 2005 at AUS$9.90, Chateau Beau-Rivage 2004 at AUS$8.99, and Chateau Lescart 2004 for AUS$15.90.

This rise in popularity is attributed to the educated local consumer who is looking for ‘something different’, as well as to France’s efforts to produce fruitier, marketing-led wine under screw-cap.

But sceptics downplay the recent statistics, saying the French should not be too excited, nor the Australians too nervous.

Wine imports in general are still miniscule, due to both a punishing tax regime and long-entrenched local preferences for home-produced wine.

In 2006, Australia imported 30m litres of wine, which accounted for less than 5% of the country’s total consumption.

‘When you start from zero, it’s easy to say there have been huge increases,’ said David Skalli, of consultants Skalli and Rein. He added that he considers Australia a no-go area for the French.

‘Aside from Champagne, I haven’t seen a single bottle of French wine in Australia. And in the long-term – taking into account taxes and shipping costs – it just doesn’t make financial sense for Bordeaux to try to sell cheap wine there.

‘A French Cabernet Sauvignon made for €2-3 cannot possibly compete with an equivalent wine from anywhere else in the world. Nor should it try,’ said Skalli. ‘Such wine gives consumers a very bad impression of the Bordeaux brand.’

Skalli pointed out that the total value of French exports to Australia were only €30m last year.

‘If a French client came to me for advice about selling wine in Australia,’ added Skalli, ‘I would sit down with them and try to interest them in other markets. They would have a better chance in Vietnam.’

Written by Maggie Rosen