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Rioja shipments to UK hit all-time high

Published:  23 July, 2008

Rioja shipments to the UK reached a record high of 22.9 million litres last year, a growth of 19% on 2005.

Exports have jumped almost 300% from 9.7 million litres in 2000 in the UK, an extraordinary achievement considering the problems Rioja had with foreign markets that year.

Sue Glasgow, UK spokesperson for the region, said: Rioja has reinvented itself with wines that are more fruit-driven, better winemakers who travel, and vast amounts of money spent on flash new wineries. They don't just put liquid in a barrel and leave it for ages. They think about whether to use French oak, American oak, or a combination, and are adopting new grapes like Graciano for single-variety wines.'

C&D Wines, a major Rioja supplier to the UK market, saw a significant sales increase for its Olarra winery last year. It also took on a family-owned property Altun, in the Alavesa region at the end of last year, while sales of Muga blanco went up too.

Areas like Navarra have had good markets, but they haven't moved on. They're kept their wines for too many years in bottle, and released them too old,' says Jos Velo-Rego, sales director at C&D. Rioja has woken up to the fact that the market has changed. Some countries, like Germany, haven't forgiven Rioja for the price increases of 2000, but UK buyers most definitely have.'

Veldo-Rego pointed to the branding of Rioja as another important reason for its success. People might not realise Rioja is from Spain even, but they know the name, like they know Cabernet from Australia.'

Christopher Payne, marketing manager at Moreno Wines, warned not every style of Rioja has a rosy future. Growth is going to come in Crianza rather than Reserva because of the price difference. There's a lot of slack ready to be taken up in Crianza. At 5.99, it falls exactly where people want to spend their money.'