Accolade Wines insists that the UK remains “the engine room” of the business - despite a management reshuffle aimed at driving growth in mainland Europe.

Accolade has split the existing role of European commercial general manager in two, with Continental Europe now being run separately from the UK and Ireland.

James Lousada, who held the combined role for more than three years, was invited to take on the UK & Ireland brief but opted to leave the business. Paul Schaafsma, currently UK & Ireland general manager at rival Australian Vintage, will take up the role next month. The Continental European role will be taken by Ted Popov, formerly Accolade’s sales director for mainland Europe.

The two markets operated at different levels of maturity, said Accolade chief executive Troy Christensen, and creating two new roles would allow the company to act with greater pace and flexibility at a tough time for the wine trade.

However, the UK would remain key. “We’re increasingly a global company, but the UK is the engine room of the business and it’s vital we continue to drive growth and margin,” he said.

The tough trading conditions were reflected in Accolade’s off-trade sales figures, which show five out of its six wine brands down in volume and value YOY [Nielsen 52 w/e 28 April 2012].

Over the past year, Accolade has looked beyond the UK for growth, swooping for US brands Geyser Peak Atlas Peak and XYZ, as well as distributor Shanghai CWC Wine Trading.