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Rioja Recognises Awards 2016



London, Thursday 3rd November: Four industry personalities were honoured by the Consejo Regulador of Rioja DOCa last night in its second annual awards ceremony to celebrate Spain’s flagship wine region and some of its greatest ambassadors. Hosted at Hispania restaurant, the event recognised the achievements of four individuals who’ve made a significant impact on Rioja in the UK: Nick Room; Susy Atkins; Hal Wilson and Ben Henshaw.

During the reception, guests, including His Excellency, the Spanish Ambassador, Mr Federico Trillo-Figueroa, enjoyed a selection of the top scoring wines from the recent Rioja 10x10 tasting alongside contemporary tapas dishes prepared by Hispania. The evening was compered by renowned Rioja authority and joint winner of Rioja Recognises 2015 Outstanding Contribution, Sarah Jane Evans MW, who said that ‘with Rioja Recognises, Wines from Rioja is awarding members of the UK trade who have done something exceptional. I was very touched to receive an outstanding contribution award at the inaugural event last year and am delighted to welcome the new winners this year.’

Following in the footsteps of Sarah Jane Evans MW and Tim Atkin MW and receiving an award for his ‘Outstanding Contribution’ was long-standing Waitrose buyer, Nick Room. On receipt of the accolade, Room, whose passion for Spain runs deep, shared his vision of Rioja, saying ‘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 added ‘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.’

Representing the independent end of the retail sector, was this year’s ‘Off-trade Personality of the Year’, Hal Wilson, Cambridge Wine Merchants. His boundless enthusiasm for the Rioja category has helped a white Rioja become the best-selling white wine across all of the Cambridge Wine Merchant stores. Hal revealed that ‘Loving Rioja is easy’ and thanked the Consejo Regulador of Rioja ‘for the recognition you have bestowed on me and my company this evening. We have the relatively easy job of bringing your 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.’

A familiar face to wine consumers across the country; broadcaster and writer Susy Atkins, was recognised as ‘Communicator of the Year’. Addressing attendees at the event, Atkins expressed her delight at receiving recognition for her work on Rioja, explaining ‘My relationship with Rioja goes back many years and has resulted in many memorable experiences – from recording a show on the San Mateo celebrations in Logroño for Radio 4 to hosting food and wine matching seminars at Rioja Tapas Fantasticas. Rioja has played an important part in my career and I continue to enjoy sharing my love of this fascinating region with professionals and consumers alike.’

Awarded this year’s ‘Distributor of the Year’ Ben Henshaw of Indigo wines revealed that when he started out with Indigo, he focussed on the lesser known wine producing regions of Spain but after visiting Rioja for the first time, found he was ‘really blown away by the amazingly friendly people as well as the stunning landscapes, vineyards and cellars’

José Luis Benitez, Head of the Promotional Committee of the Consejo Regulador of Rioja DOCa, who opened the evening, said ‘It was a great pleasure to see so many notable faces among the crowd here this evening, including His Excellency, the Spanish Ambassador, Mr Federico Trillo-Figueroa. It was an honour to be here with everyone and to celebrate the achievements of some of Rioja’s greatest ambassadors’.

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’.

For more information, please contact Phipps on 020 7759 7400 or email