Wine Talk

Snooth User: Philip James

Rioja sales plummet, neighbouring appellations soar?!?

Posted by Philip James, Feb 21, 2009.

I found this a strange, but fascinating article.

"Rioja sales fell by up to 15% in 2008, with Rias Baixas and Castilla-La Mancha reporting marked increases in sales.

According to statistics released by DOC Rioja's regulatory board, sales of Gran Reserva in 2008 fell by 14.7%, with Reserva falling 10.4%, and Crianza down 5.3%. Overall, sales of Rioja wine were down 7.5%. "

So why is Rioja sucking when Rias Baixas is doing so well?


Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Feb 22, 2009.

Rias Baixas is Albarino Country and besides being one of the "it" whites last summer they spent a ton of dough on promotional materials over the past 2 years. I was included in a video presentation they prepared 2 years ago as a seling tool. They also started from a small base so while they're sales are way up total sales are still markedly less than Rioja.

Castilla-La Mancha, Spain's most prolific region, is the source of much of the cheaper wines that have quickly gained a foothold in this country.Until recently these wine's were pretty provincial but recent advances have sort of internationalized many wines of the region which accounts for their new found appeal.

I think a lot of the drop off in Rioja sales has to do with the rise in quality at still very affordable prices that has taken place throughout Spain.

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, Feb 24, 2009.

It seems like the high-end Rioja has been hurt the most.

I think this is because many wine drinkers are no longer into the old "sopa de roble" aged to death orange-rimmed style of many traditional Gran Reservas and Reservas. It's up to the new wave of Rioja producers who make wines in a more international style to win these consumers back. At the same time, Rioja may have a hard time justifying its price premium when Navarra, Jumilla, Toro, and the 2 regions profiled above, offer such great values.

Still - last week-end I had a 2004 Rioja Crianza that I picked up in a shop in Boston with my hosts for the Oscars for just $12.99 - it was fantastic delivering at least $20 if not $25 quality. It's amazing what an older, developed bottle can bring every now and again...

Reply by zufrieden, Mar 5, 2010.

This reference to value - particularly for Crianza - is a common one.  I have picked up bottles on sale for as low as 10 dollars and been astounded at the value for money.  

On the subject of falling sales for Rioja, I would say this is due to changing tastes - as already suggested.  Also, the Albarino reference seems only to substantiate this claim; here we have a light, very tasty white from an obscure, rural yet interesting part of Spain.  These "exotic" whites have a certain currency that does not seem to transfer to the reds of Rioja.  Certain memories linger: my first experience with Rioja was not unlike biting into an oak stave.  While that memory has faded with as more approachable, modern wines emerge from this region, certain biases may remain for many.  

This is a competitive world we live in.  The Tempranillo grape deserves the recognition it gets, but it may take time for Rioja to sustain a strong market. As was pointed out, you can obtain amazing buys from so-called lesser regions of Spain, so why must your Spanish wine be Rioja?

Reply by GregT, Mar 5, 2010.

How did this thread get revieved after a year???

Anyhow, there are basically three Riojas and I'm not referring to the three divisions by appelation.  I mean there are the "traditional" bodegas that make wonderful wine that ages well and rivals much of Burgundy, etc.  And then there are the producers who put out oceans of wine that's not particularly distinuishable, but at the same time, not offensive.  And then there are the new wave producers, who are putting out lush, ripe, rich, thick wines that spend a lot of time in barriques and that cost quite a bit.

The first group will always sell.  Their prices aren't insane and they offer some of the best buys in wine today.  The second group will sell insofar as their prices don't get out of hand.  People who buy wines under $12 tend not to know specific producers or even regions. Smart producers court these buyers because some of them will move upmarket in the future.

The third category includes what are called the "alta expression" wines, or the "modern" ones. Not only do these wines need high scores, they also need push by the importers and distributors and stores.  A score gets you attention, but you need continued attention.  And many of these are not really moving so well, particuarly as they can be quite expensive.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Mar 8, 2010.

Check out today's email with the Roda video review and write up. Alta expresion and exactly the type Greg is talking about.

Reply by GregT, Mar 8, 2010.

It's gruner veltliner on the video.

Reply by Chris Carpita, Mar 8, 2010.

@GregT:  thanks for catching this, we have the correct video up now.

Reply by hhotdog, Mar 11, 2010.

what does this mean for consumers?

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