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Rioja champions awarded at second Rioja Recognises

Published:  03 November, 2016

Four "ambassadors" for Rioja were given nods by the DOCa Consejo Regulador at the second Rioja Recognises last night for their contribution to Spain's flagship wine region.

Four "ambassadors" for Rioja were given nods by the DOCa Consejo Regulador at the second Rioja Recognises last night for their contribution to Spain's flagship wine region.

The ceremony was hosted at London's Hispania restaurant where Nick Room, Susy Atkins, Hal Wilson and Ben Henshaw were recognised for their achievements.

Guests including the Spanish ambassador, Federico Trillo-Figueroa, sampled a selection of the top scoring wines from the recent Rioja 10x10 tasting while Rioja expert and joint winner of Rioja Recognises 2015 Outstanding Contribution, Sarah Jane Evans MW, compered.

"With Rioja Recognises, Wines from Rioja is awarding members of the UK trade who have done something exceptional," she said.

Following in Evans' and Tim Atkins MW's footsteps and receiving this year's Outstanding Contribution was long-standing Waitrose buyer, Nick Room.

"Rioja is arguably Spain's pre-eminent wine region. The countryside, the vineyards, the wineries, and the people are brilliant exponents of everything a wine region should be," he said after accepting his award.

"I do my job for Waitrose, which is a wonderful organisation, and the wine business, which I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of for almost 30 years," he added.

Hal Wilson of Cambridge Wine Merchants took home this year's Off-trade Personality of the Year, for his "boundless enthusiasm" for the Rioja category and also for helping to make a white Rioja to be the best-selling white wine across all of the Cambridge Wine Merchant stores.

"Loving Rioja is easy," Wilson commented, adding: "We have the relatively easy job of bringing [Rioja's] wines to an enthusiastic audience in the UK, but I know the real honour belongs to the growers and winemakers who create such beautiful wines from the soils of Rioja.'

Broadcaster and writer Susy Atkins, was given the Communicator of the Year accolade.

She reflected on some of her past experiences, including a show on the San Mateo celebrations in Logroño for Radio 4 and hosting food and wine matching seminars at Rioja Tapas Fantasticas.

The final winner of the night was Ben Henshaw of Indigo wines, who picked up Distributor of the Year.

When Henshaw started out with Indigo, he focused on the lesser known wine producing regions of Spain but after visiting Rioja for the first time, was "blown away by the amazingly friendly people as well as the stunning landscapes, vineyards and cellars".

Ricardo Aguiriano, marketing director for the Consejo Regulador explained the importance of this event for Rioja in the UK: "Rioja Recognises is a chance for the Rioja region to give back to those members of the trade who continue to raise the profile of the region, and our wines, here in the UK.

"It is the commitment and passion of individuals such as those recognised this evening which ensures Rioja is kept at the forefront of consumers' minds and which helps fuel the ongoing success of the category, even in an increasingly competitive and challenging marketplace. We look forward to building ever stronger relationships with these leading ambassadors of Rioja wines."