The head of the gigantic new conglomerate formed by the merger of Constellation Brands and BRL Hardy wants to turn the company into the Microsoft - or Coca-Cola - of the wine world.

BRL managing director Steve Millar, who will run the combined wine operations, said, ‘There really hasn’t been a truly worldwide wine business before. There is no Coca-Cola, Microsoft or Nestlé of the winemaking world. We certainly intend to be just that.’

News of the likely merger of the two New World giants broke last week when US wine group Constellation unveiled a $1.4bn (€1.3bn) takeover of its Australian rival. News stories reported it as heralding the world’s biggest wine company, but Millar’s words have rammed home the significance of the deal – at least for the Old World.

Constellation CEO Richard Sands said, ‘New World wines are what’s hot at the moment. They are replacing European wines throughout the markets of the world.’

The deal comes at a time when Australian wine sales are vying for the number one spot in the UK, and big-name branded wines increasingly dominate the scene. In the US, sales of Australian wine have grown ninefold to AUS$2.3bn (€1.27bn) in the past 10 years, overtaking sales of French wine there in the process.

The joining of the two businesses would make Constellation the market leader in both Australia and the UK, and second only to E&J Gallo in the US.

Written by Liz Hughes, and agencies21 January 2003