Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Spain has moved beyond a purely price-based discussion say UK buyers

Published:  10 July, 2017

This was the key finding of a recent Harpers Spain round table on Pushing Boundaries and Innovation, with leading buyers from across the trade agreeing that a mixture of necessity and opportunity has shifted the UK focus onto quality over quantity with Spanish wines.

With Spain losing bottom end market share, down 10% in volume across 2016 (Nielsen, off-trade to 31.12.16), but reporting only a 7% loss of off-trade value, while growing its value share of the on-trade by 2% over the same period, the consensus was that the concept of quality Spanish wines has reached a critical point with UK buyers.

“With Spain the conversation has moved on from price, and rightly so, as the growth of both quality of the wines and the label design mean that the country is very well placed to capitalise on it’s quality and presentation,” said Harriet Kininmonth, buyer at Enotria & Coe.

The assertion was that Spain is being pushed out of the ankle biting level of cheap bulk shelf fillers and that any setback this might deliver is a very temporary one compared with the opportunity to underpin the growth of more premium sales.

Buyers around the table, including Henry Boyes from Mitchells and Butlers, Joan Torrents from Majestic, Doug Wood of Woodwinters, Guillaume Mahout of ETM and Harriet Kininmonth, Enotria&Coe, said that they were already experiencing uplift where they had invested in more premium Spanish wines in their respective portfolios.

This, in turn, said the panel, was linked to a growing understanding among both consumers and trade of the differences offered by Spain’s established and emerging DOs, and the innovation that ahs been sweeping through so many of Spain’s winemaking regions.

Leading Spain commentator Sarah Jane Evans MW was among those highlighting the regions and varieties best poised to lead the charge, including the whites of Rias Baixas, including Godello (as an inheritor of Albarino’s fresh, crisp white crown), Garnachas from Aragon and Campo de Borja, plus a modern generation of juicy, flavoursome wines such as Monastrell and Bobal from warm Levantine regions such as Jumilla and Utiel-Requena. Red Mencia, from cooler Galician DOs, was also highlighted as a niche but exciting variety that has been engaging with the on-trade.

Ramon Bilbao winemaker Rodolfo Bastida drew general agreement that Rioja – Spain’s de facto flagship region – remains a great asset, being perhaps the most innovative region of all, as viticultural, winemaking and legislative change continues to sweep through the region, generating much healthy debate along the way.

On the subject of high end classification tiers for Rioja (Vinedos Singulars, or single vineyard wines) and Cava (the single estate Cava del Paraje Calificado), Evans pointed out that despite much understandable debate, “everything that draws attention to quality is likely to be a good thing in the longer run”, while Kininmonth added, “it keeps the conversation going and focused on quality.”

This greater emphasis on village and site specific wines, bringing local and regional terroir into sharper relief, ahs been a defining feature of recent developments on the Spanish wine scene.

A full report on Harpers 'Spain: Pushing Boundaries and Innovation' round table will appear in our Spanish supplement in the autumn.