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Rioja wine export volumes to UK fell in 2016, also dipping globally

Published:  02 March, 2017

For the first time in 20 years, Rioja wine export volumes to the UK have slumped, according to the most recent export figures for 2016

For the first time in 20 years, Rioja wine export volumes to the UK have slumped, according to the most recent export figures for 2016. 

Rioja's wine board has blamed the 6.3% volume downturn to its top export market on the fall in the pound, which further weakened following the Brexit vote of last June.

"Like other wines imported from the euro zone to the UK, the fall in the pound has affected Rioja exports in 2016, however it is too early to say what the impact of Brexit will be in the longer term," said Ricardo Aguiriano, head of marketing and communications at the Consejo Regulador de Rioja.

Global Rioja exports in 2016 also slumped by 2.7% to 103.77 million litres when compared to 2015, as a result of the fall in exports to Britain and Germany which account for half of all Rioja exports, Rioja's wine board said.

However, the value of total Rioja exports increased 1.1% to €468 million (£401m) last year.

"Despite the fall in volumes by 6.3%, the average value of Rioja exports increased by 2% [to the UK in 2016 compared with 2015], and of the Spanish PDO wines exported to the UK, Rioja wines have the highest average price of Rioja per litre, which is an important step," Aguiriano added.

He dismissed any concern that commercial factors other than the fall in the pound and market uncertainty surrounding Brexit, were affecting Rioja's exports to Britain.

Meanwhile, Aguiriano said that Rioja importers were unconcerned by what the Rioja wine board said could be a temporary fall in volumes to mature markets.

"It is not possible to say that the fall in exports to Germany and Belgium is a market tendency - it is the first year," he said. "We are not overly concerned by these figures as operators in those countries have confirmed that despite lower exports, demand is still high."

Rioja attributed the fall in exports to Germany to a revaluation of products, which it hoped would lead to a repositioning of Rioja wines in the market.

Regarding exports to the UK, a Rioja spokesman added: "The market leadership which Rioja has in the UK, means that the fall in volumes is not that significant."

The fall in Rioja's export volumes to the UK comes during market uncertainty caused by the prospect of Brexit, but follows a period of unparalleled success in Britain where, barring 2009, Rioja exports increased by seven million litres, from 27million litres in 2006 to 34 million litres in 2017.

Despite the fall in exports to key mature EU markets, Rioja exports in 2016, increased dramatically to newer markets such as Ireland (+8 in volume) and China (+15% in volume), which is now Rioja's sixth most important export market.

Ireland is now Rioja's ninth most important market. And this year Rioja's Wine Board will step up its commercial activity in Ireland by adding a series of tapas and wine days to its annual tasting event.

Meanwhile, in the UK - as part of a fresh campaign aimed at slightly younger wine consumers - Rioja will this year focus its commercial efforts on music festivals. "Last year we there was more of a foodie focus, but this year the focus in the UK is on music festivals," said Aguiriano.

Rioja Export Figures 2016 (source: Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja)

Global exports: 103.77 million litres down 2.7% in volume but up 1.1% in value to €468 million.

To the UK, Rioja's leading export market: volumes down 6.3% to 34.4 million litres but up 2% in value of average price to €123.4 million (£105 million)

To Ireland: Up 8% to 2.7 million litres

To Germany in 2016: down 5% to 17.1 million litres

To Belgium in 2016: down 16% to 2.4 million litres

To China 2016: 15% to 3.7 million litres

To US: up 0.9% to 9.7 million litres

Total Rioja Sales Figures (source: Consejo Regulardor DOCa Rioja)

Both Spain and internationally: 282.4 million litres down 0.59%