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Rioja set for allocation pressure

Berry Brothers & Rudd has strengthened its Rioja portfolio as the merchant’s Spain buyer Simon Field MW acknowledged growing demand for this region’s top wines.

Haro in Rioja
Haro in Rioja

Introducing a total of nine new producers from across Spain at the merchant’s annual Spanish tasting, including mature vintages from Rioja’s Bodegas Roda and Bodegas Amézola de la Mora, Field noted: “There’s lots of talk in the press about gran reserva really getting into its stride in the US market.”

Similarly in the UK among Berry Bros’ customers he reported: “increasing interest in these wines which still represent superb value.” However, as a result of this category’s growing popularity, Field told the drinks business: “I suspect that the allocations will get tighter and the prices will go up.”

His suggestion that many of Rioja’s most prestigious wines remain under-valued echoed comments made earlier this month by Spanish specialist Sarah Jane Evans MW at a tasting to mark the 50th anniversary of the region’s acclaimed 1964 vintage.

For all the interest in Rioja’s most traditional names, Field observed: “customers do seem to get the new style stuff too,” noting that in particular, “Allende and Artadi are doing very well.”

Despite growing demand at the top end, combined with Spain’s ongoing economic problems, which are putting pressure on the lower priced end of the market especially, Field reported: “I’m generally impressed that the wineries we work with have been very stable on prices and allocation.”

Having added producers from regions as diverse as Catalonia, Navarra, Rías Baixas and Jerez in the last year, Field highlighted the growing value of Spain to Berry Bros’ business. “We’ve had double figure growth in the last three years and I see that continuing as our customers look to diversify a bit,” he observed.

Looking ahead to potential areas of expansion within the merchant’s Spanish portfolio he remarked: “I’d like to do more in Catalonia. We’ve done a bit more in Costers del Segre and Montsant but there’s more there. Perhaps we should look at Navarra and I don’t think we have anything from Somontano, which is probably an oversight.”

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