Independent retailers have a "big opportunity" to take advantage of the resurgent champagne sector, according to an industry expert.

In 2010 the number of bottles of champagne shipped to the UK soared by 16% to 35.5 million, making it the second best year after 2007. Some 20 million sales were in the off trade.

UK Champagne Agents' Association chairman Andrew Hawes said champagne sales in the convenience sector were buoyant, with sales being driven by a rising demand for premium brands. "Champagne is a real impulse purchase. There is a big opportunity for c-stores if they know their market," he added.

Hawes said last year's growth followed a "tough year" in 2009, but "we're now seeing a classic recovery from recession".

The Royal Wedding and the 2012 Olympics will add to the feel-good factor, he added. However, retailers and suppliers had learnt their lesson from the millenium, when they over-estimated champagne consumption and thousands of bottles were left unsold.

"There's lots more knowledge now about how people behave than there was in 2000," he said.