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PREMIUM

Rioja by numbers

Decanter brings you the highlights of news, events and initiatives that celebrate Rioja wine.

72%: Vineyards expand

The area under vine in Rioja has grown by 72% since 1985 – from 38,817ha to 66,797ha today. The Rioja region covers 100km from west to east and is divided into three distinct sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental. Vineyards cover 144 municipalities, encompassing 571 wineries and more than 14,000 wine-growers.

20,000: Rioja Wine Academy launches new course

Tasting glasses with computer

Credit: J William

Launched in 2020, the Rioja Wine Academy e-learning platform now has over 20,000 registrations from students in more than 125 different countries. It offers six online courses, which are all available free of charge. The latest course, Rioja Enthusiast, is perfect for anyone who wants a fast-track introduction to Rioja. Available in English and Spanish, this four-hour course can be completed at your own pace and is aimed at people with no previous wine knowledge. It teaches the basics of Rioja, including how to read a wine label and how to distinguish between grape varieties and wine styles, as well as offering tips on how to choose the best wine pairings in a restaurant.

Students who take the course and successfully complete the exam will receive an official certificate. Other courses from the DOCa Rioja-owned academy include a Level 2 Tourism Specialist Diploma, and a Level 3 Certified Rioja Wine Educator course, both aimed at trade professionals. To sign up, visit riojawineacademy.com.

100ml: Taste tubes showcase Rioja

Daygustation Wines in east London has introduced a range of 100ml Taste Tubes in a move designed to appeal to wine lovers who want to drink less, but better. Thought to be the first wine shop in the UK to offer this format, each tube provides a single serve that equates to one unit of alcohol. The new smaller-size fine wine range includes Baron de Ley Reserva Rioja 2019 for £5.50.

Daygustation owner Matt Day said: ‘Drinking a whole bottle doesn’t fit with the healthy lifestyles of many people these days. Taste Tubes are the ideal way to drink less – and also experiment with new wines or try more expensive wines at a fraction of the cost of a full bottle.’ Day uses a Revined machine, developed by Dutch company Tubes, to decant a standard 750ml bottle into test tubes, where it will stay fresh for up to four months. The tubes display a QR code that offers information about the producer, grape and region, plus food-pairing recommendations.

Five-tube selection packs are also available online for £29.95.

44: Bar Rioja’s by-the-glass selection

interior of Bar Rioja

Credit: Nave Barel

The UK’s only wine bar dedicated solely to Rioja now boasts 44 wines available by the glass. Run by Richard Bigg, founder of Spanish restaurant group Camino, Bar Rioja opened its doors in London’s King’s Cross in June 2023. ‘I love Rioja, I love the wines and the people, and I wanted to recreate a bit of it right here in London. I want to give people the opportunity to immerse themselves in a Spanish mini wine heaven, with walls of wines from Rioja,’ said Bigg. ‘It’s been a joy putting the list together and we’ve got something for everyone – from entry-level wines right up to show-stopping wines at £180 a bottle. The idea is to have them all available by the glass in taster measures as well as glass sizes of 75ml and 125ml, so that customers can really see and taste the diversity that Rioja has to offer.’ By-the-glass wines are served using Coravin, with a selection that encompasses Rioja’s different zones and styles. Wines are served alongside pincho-style food inspired by the famous tapas street, Calle Laurel, in Logroño.

1.45°C: Temperatures rise

Climatic conditions in Rioja are changing – as they are in many wine-growing regions around the world. Producer Ramón Bilbao reported that the average temperature in the region has increased by 1.45 ̊C in the past 30 years, based on data collected at its own weather stations over the past two decades, together with older data from public weather stations. Head winemaker Rodolfo Bastida said the best word to describe recent growth cycles is ‘atypical’ as climate change becomes increasingly evident, with adverse climatic phenomena becoming more pronounced in the past few years. The 2023 harvest was the earliest in history, 10 days earlier than 2022. A heatwave at the end of August was followed by rain, interrupting harvest for about 10 days. ‘It was a long, very complicated and very technical vintage… an emotional rollercoaster,’ summarised María Barúa, oenologist at Bodegas Lan.

Meanwhile, other areas of Spain suffered severe drought, leading to lower production figures. This was part of a global pattern, as the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) reported that world wine production in 2023 will be the smallest in 60 years.

£22.37: Rioja Wine Month

Woman walking down street with Rioja shopping bag

Credit: Cristina Pedreira

Held each year in the UK, Rioja Wine Month is a celebration of Rioja wines. It sees retailers, wine bars and restaurants promoting Rioja with initiatives for wine lovers, such as tutored tastings and special pairing menus. Last year’s event, held in November, saw 104 wine shops and venues nationwide take part, leading to a 166% average increase in the volume of Rioja sold that month, compared to the previous month. The average price of a bottle of Rioja sold during that time was £22.37 (across retailers and venues). The next Rioja Wine Month will take place in November.


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