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Rioja picks its leading lights for night of celebration

Published:  21 November, 2018

Raul Diaz, Bar 44 and Corks Out were some of the big winners at last night’s Rioja Recognises awards, which singles out the top ambassadors flying the flag for Spain’s flagship wine region.

Since they began in 2015, the awards have celebrated Rioja’s biggest champions in the UK – the region’s biggest export market – and last night was no exception.

South Wales Spanish restaurant group Bar 44 and regional merchant Corks Out picked up the On Trade and Off Trade Ambassador of the Year gongs respectively, while WSET educator and sommelier Raul Diaz was named Communicator of the Year.

Ricardo Aguiriano, marketing director at the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja, said the winners represent the individuals and companies which “ensure Rioja maintains its place as Spain’s flagship wine region in the minds of UK consumers”.

This year, this included individuals based outside the UK, with 2018’s Outstanding Contribution award going to Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW.

Torres was recognised for his work promoting Rioja across a number of markets including the UK, which currently receives a third of all Rioja exports.

It’s been a busy year for the region, and this was highlighted by several of last night’s speakers.

One year on from the regulation changes, Aguiriano said producers now have the “opportunity to talk about their single vineyards, towns and sub regions”.

He added he was looking forward to those wines reaching more consumers over the next year, while “not forgetting Rioja’s aged wines which are known throughout world”.

Rioja’s diversity and value for money was also a key theme.

Mike Stanton, retail director at Corks Out said: “The new single vineyard regulations are going to create more opportunities for terroir-driven wines, while innovation around rosé, among other things, is exactly what customers are asking us for on the front line on high street.

“Rioja’s lasting appeal is value for money. It can blow your socks off for half the price of other well-known wine regions. Alta and Alavesa also make amazing fine wines, while entry level still punches above its weight. Rioja is delivering the goods.”

Diaz agreed: “It’s one of the best few regions in the world where you get quality at every level. The innovation is incredible too: unoaked styles and rosé alongside traditional styles. If you match these with the right food, it’s perfect.”

Rioja Reconises is organised by the consejo’s marketing arm, Wines from Rioja, which is responsible for initiatives like Rioja 10x10 in the UK.

Spanish bar and restaurant group, Bar 44, scooped the On Trade Ambassador of the Year crown partly for their involvement in this year’s ‘Rethink Rioja’ promotion, which saw participating restaurants pick six of the region’s wines for a series of summer tastings and promotions.

Top photo show, from left to right: Owen Morgan (Director, Bar 44), Ricardo Aguiriano (Marketing Director, Consejo Regulador Rioja DOCa), host Sarah Jane Evans MW, Raul Diaz (Founder, WineTraining), Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW)