The D.O.Ca. Rioja Control Board held several promotional events in Canada, a market under public monopoly for wine imports where Rioja has experienced a major boost in the past five years. Canadian sales doubled between 2011 and 2015, making the country the seventh largest importer of Rioja wine. The reason behind such positive evolution in this traditional market for Rioja wineries was explained by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario Vintages Director, Kathy Cannon at a Rioja consumer event in Toronto: “Rioja stands as one of the world’s premium regions, and should be considered in the same breath as Burgundy, Bordeaux and California.” “The more than 75 wines available for tasting tonight offer a clear vision of why this distinguished region is thriving more than ever.” Attending winemakers considered the event a major milestone, both because it was the first time the monopoly organised an event for a single Spanish wine region and also because of the success of the results obtained with the planned activities.
The Control Board delegation to Canada included José Luis Lapuente, general director, Ricardo Aguiriano, marketing manager, Ana Fabiano, brand ambassador and business programme manager for the United States and Canada, and Dhane Chesson, director of national accounts, Wines from Rioja. They shared a lunch with wine and food journalists and met with the Ontario monopoly team in charge of Spanish wine purchases to explore opportunities for 2017. Ana Fabiano gave a seminar which was sold out in a few days. Forty consumers, sommeliers, journalists and LCBO representatives attended.
The event was organised by the LCBO fine wine and premium spirits business unit, Vintages, and held at the Thompson Landry Gallery on Wednesday 5 October. There were 29 Rioja wineries represented and 76 wines selected by from the monopoly’s premium wine lists. The paid event was attended by agents and wineries who offered their wines with tapas to some 400 VIP customers. On Thursday 6 October, there was a special tasting for consumers at the Skin+Bones wine bar organized by U-Feast, which chose ten LCBO listed wineries to present their wines.
Canada has become a significant market for Rioja, ranking 7th among Rioja importers. There are currently 106 Rioja wineries selling their wines in the country and over 35% of sales are of Reservas and Gran Reservas. Consistent double digit growth in the past few years has increased sales twofold between 2011 and 2015, reaching the three million litre mark. Rioja sales in Canada currently account for 39% in volume and 41% in value of Spanish wine sales. “Growth forecasts for Rioja continue to be very promising,” says Rioja general director José Luis Lapuente, adding that “the balance of promotional activities this week is highly satisfactory,” and that they should be given continuity in the future.