Independent retailers are a fast-growing segment in the retail trade. In fact, they have become one of the strategic channels for Rioja sales to grow in value. The UK market has reaffirmed its position as top importer of Rioja wine, with 36.8 million litres in 2015, accounting for 34.5% of total Rioja exports. Looking to strengthen relations, the Control Board organised a visit to Rioja for twenty UK retailers, so they would have the opportunity to discover new wines and have a ‘Rioja experience’, getting to discover first-hand the Region’s vineyards and wineries and exchange opinions with winemakers. The programme included visits to wineries as well as a ‘mini-fair’ held at the headquarters of the D.O.Ca. Rioja Control Board, with 61 participating wineries.
As noted by the head of the Rioja campaign in the United Kingdom, Lottie West, the Control Board has designed a strategy to improve the positioning of Rioja wines in restaurants and wine shops, where greater added value is generated. Every year, there are promotional activities targeting more than one hundred independent retailers across the country, some of which comprised the group that visited Rioja. Pilar Bazán, director of the Bristol-based distributor, Sanamba, confirmed that “independent retailers are interested in wines that differ from those sold in supermarkets, as wine shop buyers have more purchasing power and can pay higher prices.” She also highlighted the “assurance provided by Rioja wines as to quality,” and the advantage of the independent retailers who can guide consumers toward higher quality wines.
In the United Kingdom, “Rioja is a very popular wine region and a standard among Spanish wines, perceived as a quality alternative to French wines,” says Lottie West. For this reason, the British market “continues to offer interesting opportunities for Rioja, thanks to increased growth in off-trade medium-high price points.” Currently, Rioja wines represent 3% of total bottled wine imported by the United Kingdom.