Four wine personalities rewarded for raising recognition of Rioja

Last night, at a dinner in London, four leading wine figures were rewarded for raising the recognition of Rioja in the UK and beyond.

Pictured, from left to right: Owen Morgan (director, Bar 44), Ricardo Aguiriano (marketing director, Consejo Regulador Rioja DOCa), Sarah Jane Evans MW, Raul Diaz (founder, WineTraining), Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW

Held at Eneko Basque Kitchen & Bar in Covent Garden – the London outpost of Michelin-starred Basque chef Eneko Atxa – a clutch of personalities were thanked for their commitment to Spain’s flagship wine region, and officially declared Rioja ambassadors.

Part of a campaign called Rioja Recognises, the concept was created four years ago to celebrate those who have made a significant contribution to the Rioja category in Britain as well as on a global scale.

And, before a lavish dinner was served for Spanish wine lovers in the UK trade, Sarah Jane Evans MW, co-chair of Rioja 10×10, announced the winners of the Rioja Recognises campaign for 2018.

Pointing out that this year’s recipients comprised wine trade figures from outside London, and for the first time, beyond the UK too, she expressed her delight at the broadening of the awards to include a larger area.

“It’s good to see that there are winners this year from outside London, because it’s easy when you live in the city to become capital-obsessed,” she said, before revealing that one of the recipients was Owen Morgan, a director of the Bar 44 chain, which has outlets in Penarth, Cowbridge, Cardiff and Bristol.

Later on, she announced that for the first time, Rioja Recognises had been extended to included non-UK-based personalities, with Spain’s Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW receiving an ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award for his work promoting the region across a number of markets, such as China, Denmark and the UK.

Other recipients this year included sommelier, WSET educator, and TV presenter, Raul Diaz, and Mike Stanton, from retailer Corks Out.

Also speaking at the awards ceremony and dinner in London last night was Ricardo Aguiriano from the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja.

Explaining the importance of the event for Rioja in the UK, he commented, “Rioja Recognises is an opportunity for the Rioja region to thank those members of the trade who continue to raise the profile of the region and its wines. It is these people who ensure Rioja maintains its place as Spain’s flagship wine region in the minds of UK consumers, and fuel the ongoing success of the category in an increas­ingly competitive marketplace.”

He also confirmed Rioja’s commitment to the UK market, noting that the region had continued to invest in the nation right through the economic crisis that began in late 2008, and would keep up its support for the years ahead.

After all, stressing the importance of Britain for Rioja, he said that as much as one third of all exports from the famous Spanish wine region went to the UK.

He also said that the pressure on supply from Rioja would ease with this year’s vintage, which is up from 360 million kilograms of grapes in 2017 to 468m kg this year – an increase of 30%, making it one of the largest harvests of the past decade, according to Aguiriano.

Finally, he drew attention to the recent changes that have taken place in Rioja, including, as previously written about on thedrinksbusiness.com, the additional classifications for the region, and a new campaign to promote the area, with the strapline Saber Quién Eres – which translates as ‘knowing who you are’.

Evans also drew attention to the dynamism of Rioja, recalling the excellence of the Master of Wine Symposium in June this year, which was held in Logroño – the capital of the region.

“For many, it was a complete eye-opener,” she said, referring to the attendees’ experience of Rioja during the three-day event.

While speaking of the wines, she explained that extensive tastings of Rioja during this year have highlighted “the exciting diversity” of the region, commenting that “there is always something new and interesting”.

Over the following pages is a profile of each of the recipients of 2018’s Rioja Recognises campaign, including their comments on the wine region’s enduring appeal.

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