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Rueda DO turns focus on Rueda rather than Verdejo in renewed UK export campaign

Published:  26 February, 2019

Boosted by a 2018 bumper crop, the Rueda DO wine board is this year renewing its export campaign switching its focus from the region’s predominant Verdejo grape variety to Rueda.

“In Spain, we have had a situation whereby people would ask for a Verdejo instead of Rueda - they could be served Verdejo of lower quality from other parts of Spain like Castilla La Mancha,” said Mario Muñoz, Rueda DO’s director of international promotions.

To boost consumer protection, new back labels on Rueda bottles can no longer state the grape variety and must state the word Rueda.

Rueda wine board's new rules, which came into effect this year for wines from the 2018 vintage, have been introduced through the adoption of a colour scheme for back labels.

“The word Verdejo can only now be used on the front label in association with Rueda, and not on its own,” Muñoz explained.

The renewed Rueda campaign to boost exports comesafter Rueda exports to the UK leaped by 42% to more than a million bottles in 2017, up from more than 700,000 bottles in 2016.

Rueda export figures for 2018 were not made available, but Muñoz described Rueda's domestic sales as "stable", suggesting that further growth would come from exports.

“In the past there was no real need for exports as domestic demand was so big, but now as well as a record harvest in 2018, new plantings have come into production this year and wineries have established export teams to diversify their growth strategy,” Muñoz said.

In Britain, the fastest growth for Rueda is in the on-trade, which now accounts for 60% of sales. Muñoz pointed out that in 2017, it was in the on-trade rather than the off-trade where Rueda producers were able to increase prices.

“This year we are taking further steps in the UK market through education, master-classes and pop-up tastings for sommeliers in conjunction with ICEX, (Spain’s state-run export and investment company),” Muñoz said.

Rueda wines account for about 41% of domestic white wine sales in Spain, with global exports making around  15% of production in 2017.

The new export campaign comes as the Rueda harvest in 2018 yielded a record 130 million kgs of grapes – volumes far higher than the annual average of 90 million kgs of grapes.

The rebound in Rueda follows a more than 25% slump in production in 2017 when the region was hit by frost.

Recent plantings have finally this year come into production raising Rueda’s total active plantings to 16,164.92 hectares, a dramatic increase of more than 1,600 hectares compared with 2017.

Investment in Rueda over the past 20 years from large Rioja and Ribera del Duero corporations seeking white wine alternatives to their red wine portfolios has largely been focused on entry-level mass-market wines.

But now, along with the identification of new clones and the use of old vines, wine production in Rueda, has been invigorated through the rise of singular wines made in a myriad of styles; wines fermented and aged in barrel, together with experimental production in amphorae and eggs, as well as natural wines, ancestral method sparkling wine and a renewal of fortified sherry-like ‘Dorado’ wines.

Some of these wine styles, which show diverse aromatic profiles and alcohol and acidity levels, were presented at the Rueda tasting held yesterday in London at 67 Pall Mall.