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The Increasing Commercial Success of Rias Baixas

Rias Baixas is already one of the most important white wine producing regions of Spain. Only Rueda and La Mancha have significantly larger white wine sales and much of La Mancha’s sales are derived from low value bulk exports. According to figures published by Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, in 2011-12 the average revenue for Rias Baixas’ wine was €5.7/litre, compared to Rueda’s average revenue of €3.0/litre.

Located within Galicia in northwestern Spain, Rias Baixas is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and by Portugal to the south. The highly indented coastline with many headlands and inlets (rias in Galician) has come about by the drowning of river valleys.  Deeply dissected metamorphic rocks and granites, which give rise to steep slopes and coarse-grained alluvial soils, underlie the vineyards.  This topography has led to the Rias Baixas vineyard being highly fragmented.  Since the beginning of the 21st century the Rias Baixas vineyard has almost doubled in size and now stands at 4,048 ha.  This total is made up from 23,232 separate parcels of vines, so the average vineyard parcel size is a mere 0.15 ha.


Wine production has more or less increased in line with the increase in vineyard area, though vintage variation can have a marked affect on yields.  There was a particularly low yield in 2012, which has been attributed to unusually low temperatures and heavy rainfall in June resulting in very poor fruit set.  Winemaking facilities tend to be small with only four of the 177 bodegas producing more than 5,000 hl in 2012.  Domestic sales of Rias Baixas wines currently account for ca. 80% of total sales, though this figure was down to 74% in 2011-12 as supplies tightened.

Exports have continued to grow and appear to be an increasingly important priority for producers. The Americas account for the majority of exports by volume, of which the US is by far the largest market. Europe has shown
steady, if less spectacular growth. The largest markets by volume in Europe are the UK, Germany and Switzerland.

Sherry Sales are now Greatest – in Spain

Given the amount of Manzanilla and Fino shifted in the tapas bars of Andalucia, it might seem natural that the largest sales market for sherry producers would be Spain. Yet until recently, their largest market was the UK largely through its imports of Cream Sherry.  Most of this is sold just before Christmas.

Sherry sales (Data source

The extent of the decline is clear from the graphic produced from the data sets at  Since 2002, sherry sales by volume to the UK are down by 45%.  A similar rate of decline is evident in exports to Holland. Total sherry exports were 552,000 hl in 2002 but only 302,000 hl in 2011.

This fall in sales since the sherry boom of the late 1970s is having a dramatic effect in Jerez itself. Vineyards have been abandoned, vines have been uprooted and unemployment has risen sharply.  Yet sherry quality remains high and prices have rarely been more competitive.  So apart from that Cream sherry, why not pick up a few bottles of Fino or Manzanilla the next time you’re at the wine store?  Not only will your wallet and tastebuds be grateful but you’ll be assisting a great wine region as well.