No, this isn’t about a sassy kid from Rioja, but rather street parties that our local newspaper LA RIOJA organizes around Spain to interest consumers, especially those from 25 to 35, in Rioja wines. ‘Riojano, joven y fresco’ is the theme that takes Rioja wineries to cities around the country to offer their wines in a relaxed atmosphere.
Sales of Rioja in Spain, our most important market with a 70% share, are dropping at an alarming rate because of stricter enforcement of DUI laws, the effects of the economic crisis that has affected sales in restaurants, traditionally a bastion for Rioja, competition from new wine regions and abnormally hot weather that draws people toward the chilled ‘caña’ or cold glass of draft beer and away from wine.
Sales in Spain peaked in 2007 at 249 million bottles, falling to 218 million bottles in 2009. Rioja has made a firm commitment to international sales as a means of making up the shortfall, but increasing exports by 31 million bottles is no mean feat when major markets (the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the USA) are reeling from the economic crisis.
Some hope, therefore, lies with rekindling the Spanish market
This year, the party has already gone to Santander, Oviedo and Logroño and will return to Logroño on July 29. I attended the Santander event with some friends. The choice of a venue couldn’t have been better – a tree-lined boulevard near the center of town durng the evening hours before dinner when townspeople are out for their pre-dinner stroll and therefore predisposed toward a few glasses of wine.
For 5 euros, visitors received a tasting glass, a small brochure describing the wineries with a place to make tasting notes and five vouchers, good for five glasses of wine, a good deal. The local ‘Centro Riojano’ (Riojan expats club) provided cheese, sausage and information about the Rioja region.
The party was a success for everyone involved – the locals, who were able to sample a wine range of wines at good prices; the wineries, who promoted their brands with their distributors and customers, and the elected officials from Rioja and Santander who shmoozed with their constituents.
Riojan street parties like this are becoming an important part of Rioja’s promotional activity in Spain, the UK (Tapas Fantásticas) and Germany. It would be nice to be able to do them in the USA, Rioja’s # 1 target market (wishful thinking, due to Americans’ puritanical attitude toward alcohol) because the best way to sell wine is to give consumers a taste in a convivial atmosphere. I hope the Rioja PR campaign in the USA finds a way around this, because the US is the only market with the growth potential to compensate for falling sales in Spain.