Speaking at the Rioja in Retail tasting, held at The Hospital in Covent Garden
last week, Morrisons' senior wine buyer Suzie Cornwell said: "Winemakers have realised white Rioja needs to keep much fresher for longer. It now has become fresher, cleaner and more zingy. Ten years ago Spaniards couldn't make white Rioja at a commercial level and now they can."
Tesco spokeswoman Kate Sarginson agreed: "It's been a perception thing with white Rioja - it was seen as having oxidised flavours and an oaky style, but quality levels are growing."
Cornwell said sales of white Rioja have steadily increased in Morrisons over the past five years. "A little bit of this is down to recognition, a little bit is to do with the wine style becoming much more appealing. The key factor is that quality has improved," she said.
Laithwaites wine buyer James Snoxell said: "White Rioja has been going through a identity problem, but now it's on the up. The whole category has got loads of potential."
Thresher had added two white Riojas to its autumn portfolio because "it's one of the wines that consumers always ask for", said company spokesman Dirk Kind.
Majestic has also reported a
white Rioja sales. "We've definitely seen more interest as modern styles have come onto the market," PR manager Sally Barlow said. The chain will
offer 20 per cent off all Spanish wines until Oct 29, and has
run a Spanish wine tasting week. "In-store tastings give
our customers the opportunity to taste different styles and to promote white Rioja to our customers," Barlow added.
Generic body Wines for Rioja will focus on white Rioja in its marketing efforts, according to
communications director Ricardo Aguiriano . "We have a very good product in terms of value for money in the reds, but white is not on the same level," he said.
Aguiriano predicts that more white Riojas will hit the UK market in the next five years following the Regulatory Council of Rioja's approval of the use of Chardonnay, Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc, and native varieties Maturana Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco and Torrontés. "In five years the potential of these grapes will be realised," he said.