The French wine industry is fighting back against claims the Australians will soon have a bigger share of the UK market. Last year Aussie wine sales in the UK soared at the expense of French wines, while the industry has been predicting that Antipodean producers will make it to the number one spot by next year. But the French do not intend to give up their market leadership easily. French promotion body Sopexa has released figures from French Customs which showed exports to the UK in the first four months of this year increased 12% in both volume and value on the same period in 2000. MD François Collache admitted these compared with a very poor post millennium performance last year due to excess stock in the trade and with consumers. But he insisted the underlying picture was good. "In the off-trade the statistics for the last six months show French wine sales up 3%," he said. "This is not as fast as the market at 5% but it is an improvement on the decreases of last year." The picture in the on-trade is better. ACNielsen reports French wines up 7% in volume for the 12 months to May. Collache said: "Importers are seeing good business for French wines. The on-trade has been in decline for the last three years." He put the improvements down to a combination of factors. "The products have more modern labels and the quality of the wines has improved." The regions that have led the renewed growth are Beaujolais, Burgundy and Côtes du Rhône. {{DRINKS }}