Rioja rocks London

The new president of Wines of Rioja has pledged to invest in the UK market in a bid to build exports over the next decade.

Around 600 buyers sampled hundreds of wines at the generic body’s first London tasting last week and it vowed to return next year.

New president Luis Alberto Lecea, who took over the top job in July, told OLN: “We are running significant promotional activity and we are taking special care of the UK.

“We will be back next year because we are satisfied with the results of this event. We have been ambitious but it’s been good and our aim is to repeat this exercise.”

The UK is the region’s main export market and takes around 33 million litres a year – equivalent to one bottle in every nine it produces.

But the Spanish market, which drinks two-thirds of Rioja’s output, is in constant decline and the region is more focused on exports than ever. By 2020 it believes half its output will go abroad, with the UK remaining the key market.

Secretary general Jose Luis Lapuente said: “I think the UK is a profitable market. It’s a very interesting destination not just in terms of margin but also what the UK means in the worldwide market. It’s a window: you are putting yourself out there to be seen by the rest of the world.

“Through Wine Intelligence studies we know that once UK consumers have discovered Rioja our rate of purchase beats everybody in the UK.

“The only barrier is to achieve the awareness of our product. Through tastings and increased marketing activity we hope more consumers will try our product.

“We forecast that exports to the UK will grow significantly.”

Ninety per cent of UK Rioja sales are red, and the generic sees a huge opportunity to grow sales of white and rose in this market.

Lapuente said: “We feel we can maximise our presence in white and through the strength of the Rioja brand name.”

He added: “We think we are able to offer the best balance between price and quality in the world. We think we can compete at every price point. We feel we can meet consumer expectations not just at entry-level but also wines for special occasions.

“It’s going to be a sure bet. You are never going to fail if you are offering Rioja and you are going to satisfy consumers’ expectations.”

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