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As usual at this time of the year, the Control Board of the Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja has presented its annual balance where the final result shows an obvious downturn compared to the previous year.
The region sold a total of 263,338,705 litres (about 360 million bottles) in 126 countries. This figure is 7.35% below the previous year’s, a drop of almost 29 million bottles.
Fernando Salamero, Control Board president, has sent a reassuring message stating, “the situation in Rioja is balanced and we have the necessary ambition and tools to face the future with confidence.”
On the export market, sales fell by 11%, with the highest added value wines being the best performing: Crianzas fell by 3.31%, Gran Reservas by 8.85%, while Reservas grew by 1.38%.
The price improvement policy has made it possible to mitigate this downturn, leaving it at -5.28%. This cushioning effect come from a 6.43% rise in the weighted average price, and allows the region to close the year limiting the effect of the fall in sales and thus moving away from the significant economic losses experienced in other regions.
Rioja’s business in key strategic markets decreased in 2018 due to significant drops in its two main importers, the United Kingdom (-16%) and Germany (-15.51%). This is of particular concern, as the two markets combined account for half of Rioja exports. The United States, Switzerland, the Netherlands, China and Mexico experienced some setbacks with respect to the previous year but Canada, Russia and Belgium closed the year with positive results.
In the domestic market, Rioja sales fell slightly (-5.12%) compared to 2017. “This figure allows it to maintain its leadership position in this market with a wide margin over the other designations of origin. Rioja continues to enjoy high levels of consumer loyalty, although the trend is worrisome and shows the need to rethink its national market strategy, focusing it particularly on younger audiences,” says the president.
Rioja whites were better at resisting the market situation, with losses of 3.84%, and continued to enjoy a warm reception. In fact, the slight decline is mostly due to a reduction in the volume of grapes this year.
2018 has undoubtedly been a complicated year with adverse weather conditions, although this did not alter the balance of the wine region, which is crucial in assuring the sustainability and certainty demanded by the market. It is important for Rioja to be aware of the major stress in an industry that accounts for approximately 20% of the region’s GDP.
More than 3,000 samples were assessed this vintage, representing a total of 468.6 million kilos of grapes. The first assessments of wines by the Control Body of the Control Board show good acidity and colour levels, and particularly notable aromatic intensity and freshness in white wines. In view of this, we have optimistic expectations about this vintage.
“Rioja continues to be a vibrant, dynamic brand. This year we have taken a step forward pioneering leading advances in quality assurance and we have done so by recovering the concept of voluntary qualitative stock, a novel system that operates at the individual, collective and qualitative level, improving the performance levels proposed by the wine industry in 2007. Stocks currently stand at eight million litres. 2017 was a year of changes in the Region, and the decisions made established a foundation for the coming years, constituting the best basis for maintaining the success accrued by Rioja in the last decades.
This year, communication of the different geographical indications will be reinforced in the thirteen markets where Rioja carries out promotional work. The Control Board Plenary approved a budget of €10,802,452 for promotional activities, 65.2% of the total 2019 budget of €16,579,057.22.
There are currently 49 owners from 20 different municipalities who have documented their grape production to designate their wines as Vinos de Municipio. With regard to Vinos de Zona, a designation that has been displayed on labels since 1998, there are 156 owners who have already provided the required traceability of their grapes. As for the recently-created Viñedos Singulares, 76 technical reports from 44 operators have been submitted to the Ministry to date. They represent a total of 140 hectares from the 65,841 currently producing in Rioja. In the case of Sparkling wines, there are now 16 registered wineries that are producing white and rosé quality sparkling wines.
Salamero is optimistic and confident about the maturity of the sector adding that 2019 “will be a crucial year to continue working hard and take on market recovery.” “2019 is going to be the year when Rioja emerges even stronger from this transitory situation and advances in this new stage with the sole objective of continuing to reinforce the leadership of its wines both at home and abroad, as it has always done.”
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