2019 was a year of transition to usher in the new decade of Rioja
Rioja weighs up the last financial year and sets out the strategic course for 2020.
The institution is optimistic and is working on defining a Strategic Plan that will enable it to face the new decade with confidence.
Fernando Salamero, President of the Regulatory Council of the DOCa Rioja, announced the finalised data of the Designation of Origin for 2019 at a press conference this morning. The tally is a total volume of 255,914,084 litres sold in the year, in 124 countries.
The figures presented amount to a slight setback, essentially in line with the performance of this wine category in the main markets (-2.84% compared with the previous year), a fall which is reduced by half if we look at the value of sales. It is worth emphasising that these data represent a major recovery from the trend with which 2018 came to a close and the figures posted during the first half of 2019. The message is therefore positive based both on exports and (-2.24%) and domestic sales (-3.18%).
The breakdown by markets reveals an uneven picture; it is evident that the situation in China remains complicated, with a major fall in sales (-17.72%) that has been determined by the instability in this market and is also having a significant impact on wine exports to regions other than China.
Germany is another strategic market for Rioja, where there was a fall of -7.93%, although this has proven to be significantly lower than the one in previous years. In the case of the US, there has been a slight drop in volume (-1.38%) but this becomes a positive figure if we look at it in terms of value. The UK presents a similar picture, despite the context of the evident market transition, where for the moment Rioja has been able to put the brakes on the retrograde trend experience for over a year, limiting it to a slight fall in volume (-2.87%) and a situation of virtual stability in value terms.
The rest of the export markets have proven essentially stable or in growth, the highlights being the large improvement in sales of Rioja in the Russian Federation (+22.86%), Japan (+6.05%), Ireland (+4.79%) and Canada (+3.45%).
On the domestic scene, in the absence of consolidated data, sales of Rioja have decreased somewhat more than the estimated total for the category of wines with a Designation of Origin, from which we can interpret that there has been a marginal loss of market share, which however does not bring into question Rioja’s absolute leadership in terms of share.
By categories, whites and rosés continue to energise sales with increases of 11.36% and 14.74% respectively. Strong increases in the sales of Rioja rosés in Spain (+23.21%) and in white wines abroad (+18.28%) explain these increases and are evidence of the strength of the sector in catering to worldwide consumer trends. In contrast, sales of red wines have been a burden on the rest, driving them down by 5.07 points, which would be explained mainly by falls in the Reserva category. Worthy of special mention is the upward movement of 27.04 points in the market of Grandes Reservas in the domestic market.
Salamero says he is optimistic and is confident that the turn of the decade “is a key moment to continue working hard and getting ready for turning points that we can observe in some markets”. In this regard, the President announced the process of drawing up a new Strategic Plan 2020-2030 in which the Regulatory Council, with the participation of all of the associations that are members and with expert advice from the well-known consultancy firm KPMG, is now fully immersed.
In his presentation, he explained that “the Council’s promotional activity in the domestic sphere will focus on the effort to achieve an improved perception of the brand among 30-45 year olds.” To tackle this challenge, new creativities are being developed that will support the Rioja brand in its media campaign. Meanwhile, the international markets present “highly diverse and unknown challenges such as Brexit and US import duties which we hope to see cleared up in the next few months; the investment of time and money in these markets is clear, although we will remain alert and agile to tailor the initiatives wherever necessary,” the President said.
Other aspects, such as wine tourism and training will take on a strategic aspect in 2020. Rioja will be present for the first time in international fairs in the travel and tourism sector and will continue to work on actions to enhance the value and specialisation of the product for the travel and tourism sector. Also worthy of note is the launch this week of Rioja Wine Academy, an ambitious educational project based on an e-learning platform which hosts courses on Rioja specifically aimed at the diverse range of professionals who operate in the sector.
Beyond the commercial actions and the performance of the markets, the wine grape harvest in 2019 has been another factor that gives grounds for optimism on the part of the Regulatory Council. With 385 million kg of grapes harvested, the harvest was more moderate than usual, but was characterised by an excellent health and quality of the grape. Thanks to all of this, the expectation is that the 2019 vintage will be a milestone in quality that will support the value-enhancing strategies and perception of Rioja wines.