French wine offers the greatest opportunity in the drinks market for independent retailers, according to an industry expert.

Speaking at last week's Drinksummit 2006, ACNielsen's senior client manager Peter Reynolds said the independent segment of the retail market currently overtraded in French wine by £172m a year. He said despite France's continued struggle against New World wine brands in the UK, this is where the independent sector could grow its alcohol sales in order to compete with other retail channels.

Although value sales of French wine through impulse channels are currently in decline, as are overall off-trade French wine sales, some branded French wines have seen positive sales through impulse.

Liam Grant, a brand manager at importer Bottle Green, said its French Connection brand had tradi­tionally been sold through the multiples, but the company had been giving increased focus to the impulse segment over the past six months.

"Although French wine in general is down in the off-trade, there are brands that are doing well," he added. "French Connection has seen a 37% volume growth year-on-year through impulse."

In contrast with the French category, independent retailers undertraded by more than £300m in wines from California, which have shown steady growth in sales to the UK off-trade over the past two years.

"The greatest opportunities are with France, followed by Italy and then Australia. There are huge opportunities for this sector of the market with rosé wines as well, particularly if stores get their chilled offerings right. Rosé has seen a value growth of 38% over the past couple of years," said Reynolds.

Grant agreed that there were opportunities for all retailers within rosé wine. "Rosé is growing year-on-year and it is in growth, while red and white are flat. French rosé is doing better each year, although it is still second to California."