Rioja: Breaking boundaries

The US, like the UK, is seeing growth across the styles, with reserva wines rising by 48% last year. The US is the key strategic market for the Consejo and receives the largest share of the promotional budget. “The US still is the more interesting market in this respect, because of its potential in the short and medium run,” says Urrutia. “Mexico and other Latin American markets, too. In the long run, Asian markets such as China may also become important for the higher quality Spanish wines.”

Aguiriano has been closely watching the trend. “We think Mexico, China and the US are the future.

“With Mexico we have the language and culture in common. They are traditionally more beer and tequila drinkers but young people are trying to drink wine. In China the wine is mainly for gifting rather than drinking with food. But it’s an important market.”

Also among the long-term prospects for Rioja is Russia – the Consejo put aside €500,000 this year to investigate its potential. “We are making small tests in Russia and Canada to see if there is market demand for a consistent marketing campaign and to see if the importers will support us,” says Aguiriano.

For new markets Rioja’s traditional image will be the starting point of the relationship, even if the picture in Rioja today is rather more pixelated.

By moving away from typicity and convention, it’s conceivable that a region dilutes the very identity that brought it success, but Rioja is in the latter stages of its development and is surely big enough and established enough to be different wines in different glasses.