It grew 17% in volume and in value (Nielsen, year to May 25) while the four countries ahead of it – Australia, Italy, the US and France – all saw a drop in volume sales.
In the 12 weeks to May 25 it also grew 17% in volume and 19% in value, while France dropped 4% in volume and 3% in value.
Much of its success is down to its low price point: only Germany at £4.32 and Italy at £4.61 had a lower average bottle price than Spain’s £4.64 over the past year.
But Martin Skelton, managing director at Gonzalez Byass, said that Spain has nothing to fear from a low average bottle price.
He told OLN: “Spain is doing well at all price points. We only sell Spanish wine above £10, and Spain is outperforming the market at that price bracket, so we are very pleased.
“It has good entry level wines, and the market leader Campo Viejo is a good wine that is not often discounted, and then consumers can trade up to brands like Beronia [Gonzalez Byass’ brand].
“Spain has a strong identity at that price point because people have been aware of the development between crianza, reserva and gran reserva for many years.
“Better informed customers have become accustomed to premium regions such as Rias Baixas and Ribera del Duero at specialist merchants whose wine rarely retails for less than £10. The explosion of exciting new areas such as Somontano, Priorat and Bierzo have added interesting indigenous grapes and more variety to Spain’s invigorated and exciting regional offer.”
In its annual report, published this week, Wines of Rioja said global exports reached a record high during 2012 and that the UK is its main market, absorbing a third of its total exports.
Sales of Rioja in the UK grew 6.8% in volume during 2012 to 32.7 million litres. Its second-largest market, Germany, took just 18.7 million litres.
The generic body’s president Victor Pascual Artacho said proactively growing exports by ramping up investment and promotional activity in key markets like the UK is essential to its strategy.
The body invested £1.57 million in promoting its wines in the UK in 2012.
Artacho added: “Britain remains very prominently the leading importer of Rioja, with an aggregate growth over the past two years of 28%, making it one of Rioja’s priority markets.
“The most outstanding activity of the 2012 campaign in the United Kingdom was, once again, the Rioja Tapas Fantásticas festival.
“One result of these promotional efforts is that our designation of origin has received several awards of great importance in countries such as Great Britain and the United States. These major awards confirm our commercial success and the good image of our wines in those countries.”