Sales of Rioja wines hit an all-time high in 2006, according to industry figures.

The regulatory board for the Rioja region, Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja, said on Friday (16 March) that global sales last year hit 261m litres, a year-on-year increase of 4.3%. The US rose to third place in Rioja's export chart, posting a 12.9% lift in sales to 6.8m litres in 2006.

"The increase in Rioja wine sales to the US is a direct reflection of an increased effort to educate the US population on Spanish wines, Rioja in particular," said board president Victor Pascual. "We anticipate sales to trend upward in the coming years, and are committed to showcasing Rioja's great value, innovation and versatility in targeted outreach to American consumers."

Rising sales of the Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva varieties have led to increased production of these varieties in the region, the board noted.