The historic Riojan town of Briones, with its countless monuments and unequivocal medieval flavour, was the setting for the third edition of the Homage to Illustrious Rioja Wine Personalities. This year tribute was paid to three key figures in the development of Rioja wine exports during the last third of the 20th century. As the president of the Control Board noted, With their hard work, dedication and professional acumen, Josette Cordier, José Luis Santaolalla and Alex Mendiola have helped strengthen Riojas leading position in the main wine-drinking nations.
The ceremony, organised by the Control Board of D.O.Ca. Rioja in conjunction with the themed portal lomejordelvinoderioja.com and the support of Briones Town Council, also featured presentations by the president of La Rioja, Pedro Sanz, and the mayor of Briones, Mª Carmen Ruiz, and was attended by the regional authorities and numerous representatives of the Rioja wine industry.
The aim of this years initiative was to pay a well-deserved tribute to Riojas exporters, magnificently represented by the three people chosen for this purpose, who exemplify how important the human factor has been in the historical evolution of the Wine Region and the commercial vocation that has always driven its market.
As Víctor Pascual, the president of the Control Board, pointed out in his speech, Josette Cordier, José Luis Santaolalla and Alex Mendiola have played a key role in developing our commercial side, opening up the doors to markets that are now strategically important to us, and without whom the current model of our Designation would not have been appreciated, based on such key decisions as the one to sell all our wines bottled at source. With these people as key players in this transformation, our wines went from bulk sales to bottle only, bringing added value to our region and laying the foundations for the prestige that Rioja enjoys all over the world today. There is no doubt that we have before us today three illustrious personalities who perfectly embody this vision of the future that has always characterised the people of Rioja, without whose contributions it would not have been possible for Rioja to enjoy its current position as a benchmark for Spanish wines around the world.
Josette Cordier, José Luis Santaolalla and Alex Mendiola, who worked for Bodegas AGE, Bodegas Faustino and Bodegas Campo Viejo respectively, have thus joined the roll of honour of Illustrious Rioja Wine Personalities began two years ago. Other members include: oenologists Ezequiel García and Gonzalo Ortiz; Marcelo Frías, the late former chairman of Bodegas Riojanas; well-known winemaker Pedro López de Heredia and grape-grower Horacio Frías, founder of the Santa Daría Cooperative in Cenicero; and finally Enrique Forner, the founder of Marqués de Cáceres, to whom a moving tribute was paid to commemorate his death on the same date that the ceremony was held in Briones, 21 July.