Australian wine producer Southcorp has lifted underlying profits by almost a quarter last year helped by exports of premium wines.

For the year ended June 30 the group said net profits before an exceptional gain of A$137m from disposals rose 23% to A$175 and predicted a 17% increase in operating earnings for this year.

Overall sales dropped to A$2.8bn from A$3.6bn a year ago, but volume growth in its more expensive brands led to a bigger bottom line, the company said.

Southcorp managing director and ceo Keith Lambert said: “This year was notable for a number of marketing successes. The launch and promotion of new Penfolds lines in the US, UK and Australia was an outstanding success, with Penfolds volumes increasing by 1 million cases, or 55%, to 2.8m cases, a larger increase in one year than had been achieved in the previous five years."