One of the many delights of living in the Canary Islands and Spain is the enjoyment of a huge range of wines that are readily and cheaply available. Although wine snobs will disagree, bottles of good quality, drinkable wines are always readily available for less than five euros. As well as a growing selection of excellent Canarian wines that I always enjoy, my reliable standby, particularly when visiting the UK, is always a Spanish Rioja.
The Spanish region of La Rioja is the largest wine growing region, in terms of volume shipped to the UK, in the entire European Union. According to the Spanish Wine Market Observatory, Spanish wineries sold 32 million litres of Rioja to the UK in the first nine months of 2018, which is one third of their entire global export. It is clear that British drinkers love their glass of Rioja.
In order to ensure that British wine drinkers continue to receive their fair share, Spanish vineyards have been working hard to ship as much Rioja as possible, just in case the UK leaves the EU without a deal. Forecast sales for the first six months of 2019 have already been shipped, so there will be no immediate crisis for lovers of Rioja in the UK. Potential problems, such as the depreciation of sterling, the UK becoming a ‘third country outside the EU’, the possibility of no customs agreement and higher duties have led the Spanish wine industry to look to other markets to sell their product, including Russia, Canada and Brazil where there are already appreciative and interested markets waiting.
There are a few other problems too for Rioja lovers, including the decision of the outspoken owner of a major group of UK pubs to no longer stock any European wines and many European beers. It appears that lovers of Spanish, French, Italian and German wines will have to find a new outlet that will serve their favourite tipples once the UK leaves the EU. Favourite beers, such as Jägermeister from Germany, the Czech Republic’s Staropramen and Denmark’s Tuborg are also being axed. Apparently, the Belgian lager Stella Artois, is currently irreplaceable and will remain on tap, at least for the time being. Encouraging and supporting British breweries and vineyards, as well as extending customer choice is no doubt a good thing, but the restriction of consumer choice based upon political and divisive dogma may be less than helpful in a market where consumers can readily vote with their feet.
Wines from the US, Australia, Chile, Argentina and New Zealand are currently being imported by the pub chain to fill the void, whilst sparkling wines from England are intended to replace both Italian Prosecco and French Moet champagne. No more Prosecco? Well, good luck with that one!
© Barrie Mahoney