The generic body for Spain’s premier wine-producing region puts it down to:
- Rising exports were complemented by the first positive change in Spanish market trends;
- Investments in promotional campaigns were decisive in developing the Rioja brand in international markets.
WoR says the positive growth of Rioja wine sales over the course of 2013, which totalled 277,167,280m litres, represented a 3.98% uplift on the previous year and enabled the region to break the all-time sales record achieved before the financial crisis.
Continued growth in exports over the last four years was complemented in 2013 by the first positive change in domestic Spanish sales trends since 2008.
Specialising in oak barrel-aged wines has allowed the region in north west Spain to position itself at higher value price points, while promotional investment has been pivotal in consolidating awareness of the Rioja brand.
Red wines make up 90% of Rioja’s total global sales, totalling 250.7m litres, while remaining sales are divided between whites (13.08m litres, down 9.40%) and rosés (13.34m l, up 3.21%).
WoR reports that in terms of sales by category, red Crianza remains the best-selling Rioja with 101.5m up 5.19%, mainly attributable to rising sales on the domestic market. Generic back labels follow with 98.7m litres — 3.87% growth YOY. Particularly noteworthy is the consistent rise of Reserva wines in foreign markets (7.84%), to the point where export sales figures (28m litres) outnumber domestic sales by almost 2:1 (16m litres). The highest comparative growth is to be found in the Grandes Reservas, with sales rising by 17% both in the domestic market and abroad, to a total of 5.87m litres.
The overall share of barrel-aged red wine surpasses 65% of total red wine sales. The Consejo says this is thanks to a specialisation strategy that has required significant investment by wineries, but has allowed Rioja to achieve a better position than its competitors in higher value price brackets. The Reserva and Gran Reserva categories have contributed in turning Rioja into one of the most highly reputed wine regions in the world.
Spain remains the main market for Rioja, accounting for 63.1% of total sales. The start of the economic downturn saw decline for the domestic market, but the turning point came at the end of 2012, with 2013 seeing growth of 3.17%, bringing Rioja sales in Spain up to 174.9 million litres.
Sales abroad have experienced continued growth in recent years. WoR says this is particularly the case in the US, where sales crossed the hundred-million-litre mark (102.1m litres, up 5.39%), placing exports at 36.9% of total sales of Rioja. Rioja's main markets continue to be the UK, Germany, US and Switzerland respectively. These four countries take more than 70% of Rioja’s exports. The highest percentage increase in sales (+31.72%) is to be found in Belgium, now in 7th place, while there are two new countries among the top ten Rioja importers: Canada in 9th place and Russia in 10th place, with the second greatest increase in sales (+30.45%).
Rioja's top importer continues to be the UK. A third of Rioja sales abroad are in the UK, totalling 32.79m litres in 2013. Both the UK and Germany, which comes second place in the export ranking with 18.39m litres, showed little variation on the previous year. The US ranks third among Rioja importers, continuing the strong growth trends of recent years and in 2013, sales reached 10.47m litres (up 18.35%). WoR says of particular note is the 48% rise in sales of Reserva wines, proof of the good position achieved by the DOCa Rioja in the US, which receives the largest share of the control board's promotional budget. The US is considered a key strategic market to drive exports. After the exponential growth of the past four years, the Chinese market stabilised in 2013, occupying 8th place among Rioja importers with a total of 2.36m litres; a slight decline of 2.5%. The third largest growth was witnessed in the Natherlands (+20.8%), replacing Sweden as the 5th largest importer, with a total of 3.7m litres.