Rioja is celebrating a record-breaking year thanks to the continuing popularity of its wines in the UK.

The Rioja Regulatory Council has released 2006 export figures, showing that Rioja shipments reached 79m litres, of which 27.8m came to the UK.

There was also a significant rise in UK shipments of aged Rioja wines, with Reserva wines up 27%, Gran Reservas up 20% and Crianza wines up 7%. "Our strategy has allowed us to focus attention on consumer habits," said Council president, Victor Pascual Artacho.

"Our winemakers have been able to adapt to contemporary needs without sacrificing Rioja's character."