The Control Board of the D.O.Ca. Rioja has paid tribute to six figures in the world of wine in the United Kingdom with the first ‘Rioja Recognises’ awards at a gala held on 10 November 10 at the Hispania restaurant in London. The purpose was to thank these professionals for their support of Rioja to continue growing in a country which has been the leading importer of Rioja for many years and currently absorbs 35% of total exports. As noted by the president of the Control Board, José María Daroca, at the prize-giving ceremony, “we trust that we will continue to count on the support of these personalities as well as continue to find new candidates for the coming year.”


The wine journalists Sarah Jane Evans and Tim Atkin were honoured for their ‘outstanding contribution’ in their support and commitment to Rioja, while the TV personality Olly Smith received the award for ‘Communicator of the year’. The renowned Spanish chef José Pizarro was recognised as the ‘On trade personality of the year’ for his continued support of and enthusiasm for Rioja, while the ‘Off-Trade Personality of the Year’ award went to Beth Willard for her efforts with Laithwaites. Finally, Simon Jerrome was named ‘Distributor of the Year ‘ for his work as purchasing director of wine at Matthew Clark.

Delighted with his award, Olly Smith said Rioja is «a wine region which perfectly balances tradition with a zest for communicating its passion for wine in an invigoratingly modern way.  I salute these inventive wineries for engaging and encouraging consumers the world over to sample for themselves the hoard of diversity from this world class treasury of vineyards, skill and invention.” The journalist Tim Atkin MW, who was unable to collect the award personally thanked the organisers for the recognition by Rioja, «which means a lot to me. Rioja was among the first regions I ever visited as a wine writer, back in 1986, and it still occupies a special place in my heart. I am convinced that Rioja’s best days and vintages lie in the future, thanks to a new generation of dynamic winemakers… and a growing recognition that the area produces some of the great wines, not only of Spain, but of the world.». Chef José Pizarro was also honoured to receive recognition from Rioja “a region well-known for the amazing wines it has produced for many years.”

Rioja Wine Show

During the celebration of the gala, hosted by the journalist Charles Metcalfe, the guests had the chance to taste a selection of wines awarded at the ‘Rioja ten by ten’ event, which was part of the Rioja Wine Show for professionals which was held during the day to present a selection of 100 Riojas picked by a jury of twelve experts from different sectors in the wine industry in United Kingdom, including retailers, journalists, importers, sommeliers and Masters of Wine. It also included Rioja whites and rosés, as well as some wines from wineries who are seeking an importer. The event was attended by some 280 wine professionals from the United Kingdom.