Tesco, the UK's largest supermarket, trounced rivals in overall Christmas sales - with a massive boost from its own-label Champagne.

A high-profile win in a blind tasting ensured Tesco’s Premier Cru champagne was one of the group’s biggest sellers.

The UK Consumer Association reported in its magazine Which? that a panel of professional tasters had consistently rated the Tesco Champagne above Bollinger.

The Which? results had a huge impact, with sales of the prize-winning bubbly, produced by Union Champagne, jumping 1400%.

The Tesco group – now in control of over 25% of the UK market share – saw an overall gain in sales of 11.1% in the seven weeks to January. The second best sales performance went to Safeway – currently at the centre of a bidding war as rival supermarkets fight to win control of the group.

‘Sales are always stronger at this time of year but the success in the Which? tasting was a bonus and brought more awareness to the brand,’ said Tesco wine buyer Helen McGinn.

Tesco report that a number of wine promotions over the Christmas period contributed significantly to the boost in sales.

UK supermarket Sainsbury’s also reported strong results with own-label Champagne. Sparkling wine buyer Andrew Bird said, ‘Over the last three years we have used promotions on champagne to attract consumers into the stores.’

This policy has led to steady growth in the champagne sector, bucking the usual trend of poor champagne sales during an economic downturn. ‘Traditional outlets of champagne are in decline – and the supermarkets are cheaper,’ said Bird.

Written by Josie Butchart16 January 2003