The 5th Grand Tasting of Rioja Wines in China was held in the cities of Shanghai and Guangzhou, confirming expectations of growing wine drinking among the middle classes. This would allow the D.O.Ca. Rioja to maintain the strong growth figures (+35%) of 2015, which placed China 6th among importing countries. “This positive development of sales confirms the validity of the commitment of the Rioja campaign, which is directed toward the burgeoning Chinese middle classes. They enjoy increasing spending power and wish to expand their tastes to products from the rest of the world,» said the Control Board general director, José Luis Lapuente, who headed the institutional representation together with the President, José María Daroca.
More than a thousand distributors, retailers, sommeliers, wine lovers and wine and food journalists had the chance to taste the 300 wines brought by 76 Rioja wineries. The main goal of the 5th Grand Tasting of Rioja Wines in China was to seek greater market penetration through distributors while educating industry influentials to show the versatility of Rioja wines and how easily they pair with Chinese cuisine. The Grand Tasting programme of complementary activities included pairing diners with importers, journalists and wine and food opinion leaders, as well as seminars aimed at professionals led by the Chinese blind tasting champion, Sam Chen, who recently received his official Rioja Educator certificate.
New this year were the awards to recognise the fundamental work being done by distributors in marketing Rioja wines in the complex Chinese market. The prize for the Best General Distributor of Rioja was awarded ex-aequo to Interbasque Shanghai and Xiamen Oyes Import & Export Company Ltd., whose chair, Felix Yang, said that “the fundamental reason why I decided to make a commitment to Rioja, which today represents more than 25% of my portfolio, was the commitment that the D.O.Ca. Rioja made to the Chinese market. That gave me the confidence to make a long-term investment in promotion.» Meanwhile, Vicente Muedra, president of Le Sommelier International and winner of the Best On-trade Rioja Distributor award, encouraged the region to “continue with the excellent promotional work done with the Rioja brand helping to open doors for retailers in the Chinese market, which is difficult but has huge potential.” Finally, the award for Best Off-trade Rioja Distributor went to Pernod Ricard China and the Best Rioja Retailer prize to Baker & Spice.
China has become a strategic market for Rioja, given its significant growth opportunities. The wine region is therefore making a serious promotional effort, with more than 150 wineries exporting to the country. The goal is to position the region with a long-term vision and become a key reference. Sales growth in China in the past few years has been exponential, from 256,400 litres in 2008 to 3.2 million litres in 2015, a 35% rise over the previous year which has placed it 6th among Rioja importers. This growth has also been in value thanks to a rising demand for the Crianza (+75%), Reserva (+42.25%) and Gran Reserva (+43.44%) categories, increasing the average price of exports.