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New Rioja president eases internal tensions

The first grower to head Rioja’s regulatory wine body has welcomed a new internal stability that he claims has put the region in a stronger position to promote itself in key export markets.

Luis Alberto, president of the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja

“It’s been a very positive year,” reported Luis Alberto, who took over as president of the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja in July 2013. “We’ve managed to achieve harmony between growers and producers so everyone is working together in the sector.”

As the first grower representative to hold this position since the Consejo was created in 1926, Alberto presented his appointment as an important opportunity to strengthen relations between Rioja’s 18,000 growers and over 500 producers.

“In reality the relationship wasn’t great so the change in presidency has brought good developments,” he told the drinks business. “The fact that I’m a grape grower has brought a lot of confidence to the sector and helped the relationship between growers and producers. Rather than dealing with any internal conflict we are able to promote Rioja better abroad.”

Alongside his own influence, Alberto pointed to an increase in grape prices during the last two years which, he explained, has further helped to ease tensions.

Following record exports in 2013, Alberto outlined his priorities as president, observing: “One of the big challenges is to promote Rioja as a wine tourism destination. We already have the wineries, the facilities and the hotels so we can offer a great experience to consumers.”

In terms of external activity, he remarked: “We want to position and promote Rioja all over the world as one of the top wine regions. We already have a leading reputation in Spain but it’s not so in some countries.”

As demonstrated by a masterclass at this week’s Wines from Rioja trade tasting in London, the body’s UK communication strategy is now shifting towards a higher end message designed to highlight the diversity of styles and producers that existing within this region.

A key common element to these twin objectives of tourism and quality, maintained Alberto, is consistency of representation. “As president my role is to maintain this balance,” he observed. “It’s very important that winemakers and growers work together and have the same goals in mind.”

After the 2013 vintage received an official rating of “average” from Rioja’s DOCa control board, Alberto offered a measured prediction for 2014 as the harvest got underway. “We’re expecting a good vintage in terms of quantity, but quality will depend on the last 15 days of harvest,” he reported.



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