UK wine merchant Oddbins is reducing its list of wines by one third, from some 1200 lines to 800.

The multiple-award-winning high street chain, which was acquired by French group Castel for £57m at the beginning of this year, has always been renowned for the breadth of its range and the knowledge of its staff.

Now in a move the company insists will not affect customers of the 230-odd stores, stock in the central warehouse will be reduced to around 800 lines.

‘There will still be 1200 products in the shops at any one time,’ spokeswoman Karen Sutton told said, ‘but the stocks in the warehouse will be reduced. We are trying to manage the range better. It will still be a very active range.’

Although 800 lines is standard for many supermarkets and specialists – Sainsburys stocks that many on average, as does major specialist retailer Majestic Wine Warehouse – Oddbins forged its reputation on its ability to supply customers with more than the best-known brands.

‘It is quite sad for the industry,’ one well-placed wine professional told decanter.com. ‘There seems to be a general move to reduce ranges. The general public won’t notice – all they want are brands – but Oddbins customers want a wider choice.’

Other insiders sugget the move is nothing more than a cost-cutting exercise, as Castel – which owns high-end chain Nicolas – decides it wants to see some return for its investment.

The recent resignation of Oddbins managing director Richard Macadam, to be replaced by Castel’s Gilles Le Besnerais, has caused additional speculation that the French company intends to strengthen its hold over its acquisition.

Le Besnerais was not available for comment. In a statement Oddbins said he will be working ‘to continue to develop the brand and ensure the continued success of Oddbins in the UK and Irish Wine Markets’.

Written by Adam Lechmere6 November 2002