MADRID, Mar. 19 (Xinhua) -- Investment by Changyu Pioneer, one of China's biggest winemakers, has given Marques del Atrio winery in Spain's famous La Rioja wine district a shot in the arm, its commercial director Jorge Rivero said in an interview with Xinhua.
Rivera said that the arrival of investment from Changyu since September 2015 has opened enormous doors for the Spanish winery, which aims to expand in Spain, Europe and China.
Founded in 1892 in Yantai in eastern China's Shandong Province, Changyu Pioneer is a leading wine-making group in China, producing over 130,000 tons of wine a year.
Changyu has big plans for the Spanish winery, including making Marques del Atrio the most popular Spanish wine in China.
"Currently, the Chinese don't drink a lot of Spanish wine, although we expect double digit growth over the next 20 years," he said.
Sales of Rioja wines in China grew by 17 percent in 2017 and their aim is for China to "become the main market for Spanish wine in the next five or 10 years".
Rivero said that Changyu did not change any traditions of the Spanish winery, which goes back five generations in the same family.
"Changyu themselves have also been making wine for over a hundred years," he said, adding that the mutual understanding of tradition allowed the two companies to "get on very well together".
Changyu's support is important in an ever-more competitive market, which has seen the number of wineries in La Rioja grow from 30 in the late 1970s to over 600 now.
Changyu has a commercial team of 3,500 sales people, 6,300 promoters and 5,300 distributors, which according to Rivero, "allows us to compete".
Marques del Atrio has become the official wine of the Spanish professional football league (LaLiga), a trademark known around the world thanks to footballers such as Leonardo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
"We carried out a study over how to create an image... and after looking at various options we chose football, which is growing rapidly in China," commented Rivero.
Approximately 150 million people have the chance to watch LaLiga every weekend in China "and the fact that you can see Marques del Atrio on the pitch side hoardings is a way to get Chinese people to recognize our brand as a leading Spanish wine", he said, adding the agreement happened because of their partnership with Changyu.
Marques del Atrio aims to export 53 different products to China, using labels specially designed to attract a young wine-buying public. Currently, they export 16 million liters (50 percent of their total production) to China.
Changyu's support has seen Marques del Atrio's ambitions increase in domestic terms as well.
"We are not just thinking in being one of the biggest wineries in La Rioja, but to be one of the biggest in Spain and for that reason we are signing strategic agreements with wineries in other areas of Spain in order to have a wide market of Spanish wines," Rivera said.