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News - 28.12.10

“Malbec is definitely Argentine territory”

Interested in writing an article on Argentine wines and wine tourism the journalist Carly Wray, of Snooth.com toured Argentina recently.

Journalist Carly Wray, of Snooth.com (the world’s largest wine website, with 210,000 daily e-mail subscribers and a million monthly visitors) toured Argentina recently. Interested in writing an article on Argentine wines and wine tourism, the expert visited different wineries and vineyards in Mendoza, Salta (Cafayate) and San Juan, and lunched and dined with winery executives and international sommeliers.

Carly Wray is editor and wine lifestyle writer with Snooth.com and presently the only editor of The Spirit (thespir.it), Snooth’s sister publication. She has worked for the “2011 New York City Travel Guide” by Not For Tourists, the All Music Guide (allmusic.com), the All Movie Guide (allmovie.com), 80108 Media, Flavorpill, Flavorwire, and Screen Actor magazine. Wray traveled to France last month to cover the resurgence of Malbec in the region and during her stay she had the chance to meet influential personalities related to the Argentine wine industry. Her interest in our country’s flagship variety brought her to Argentina for the first time.

After her tour of the different wine regions, she had an informal talk with Wines of Argentina. Here are some of her thoughts.

How was your trip to Argentina?

My trip has been absolutely incredible. The program was very well organized and I was really impressed by the diversity of wineries and undertakings I have seen. The activities were extremely interesting, as I got to know large, medium-sized and boutique wineries. I’m going back to the US with a really thorough view of Argentina, and that’s exactly what I wanted. In all three places – Mendoza, San Juan and Salta – I had the chance to talk to winemakers, and that was a totally fascinating experience because it showed me the perspectives of people from the different regions. I definitely couldn’t have discovered all this by myself, without the logistics that you organized.

What issues attracted your interest the most during your stay?

I came here because I was particularly interested in finding out what Argentina has to offer to the new, young and adventurous consumers who don’t have much money to spend but are willing to have new experiences with wine. When they go to a store with 20 dollars, they are not looking for Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay, but for something new and different. The target of the Argentine wine market in the US should be the consumer who is interested in exploring Bonarda or Torrontés. After this visit, I’m going to write about my trip and the Argentine lifestyle, but especially about what consumers who are interested in new products in this category should seek for.

What surprised you most about the Argentine wine industry?

Bonarda is very exciting. It’s been really good to hear people speak about Bonarda and to taste the better-quality Bonardas made here. And it’s also been interesting to taste such a wide range of very high quality Malbecs. Malbec still belongs to a category that is easy to drink and not so expensive. There are high quality wines in the Argentine portfolio that should start to become better known in the US. People who until now have considered Malbec a great value wine will begin to see it as a Premium wine that can be placed in the same category as Napa Cabernets. I’ve found enormous diversity in that variety.

You visited France recently. Can you tell us about your experience there?

I was in France recently, as I was interested in the Cahors Malbecs. Once I had tasted them, I realized why they’re not easily found in the US. Malbec from Cahors is not friendly to the American palate. That’s why Americans don’t buy it. The perspective is shifting with the new generations of winemakers. Old winemakers are not interested in changing the style of their wines to please Americans, but younger professionals are looking at Argentine Malbec. They believe it’s possible to get Malbec from Cahors to express itself in a more friendly way, without leaving aside the French winemaking style. Some of them were very interesting and delicious; others were, for my taste, too tannic and dark. I think Malbec is definitely Argentine territory.

Did you get the chance to taste Argentine white wines?

White wine is now everywhere.

The Torrontés from Salta is a wine of magnificent quality: it’s honest and incredibly delicate and complex. All producers (big and small) are making amazing Torrontés wines. This variety has earned greater recognition in the US over the last few months. In New York, for example, Torrontés is served more and more in shows; people are no longer shy to order a glass of this wine at bars. It’s slowly making its way in, and there is plenty of room for it; it’s a wine consumers can identify themselves with.

Any suggestions for Argentine wineries?

I know opinions differ in this regard, but I think wineries should focus not only on Malbec. Argentine producers should introduce American consumers to their higher-quality Malbecs and then to other varieties produced in the country. Argentina will be associated with a category of wines; not only with Malbec. American consumers should be educated to continue trying new products. They don’t mind whether a wine comes from France or Napa or elsewhere. They are open to new regions and new varieties. They are the drinkers of the millennium; a very valuable market that is getting bigger and bigger, and at the same time more sophisticated. Americans are spending more money on wine. It’s going to be very exciting to see a lot from Argentina, but beyond Malbec.

Some thoughts about Argentine wines in the US market?

Argentine exports in the US have shown strong growth; so much so that Argentina now ranks fourth among countries importing bottled wine in the US, outperforming Chile for the first time. Data from the Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) of the US Department of Agriculture indicate that in 2010 Argentina exported USD 102,281,000 worth of bottled wine into the US during the January to May period. Thus, Argentina grew by 23.1% with respect to its 2009 exports. In turn, the average price per liter for Argentina, in dollars, is higher than that of Chile. The most recent data by the FAS indicate an average price of USD 4.12 per liter for Argentina and of USD 3.51 for Chile; which translates into an average price of USD 37 per 9-liter case for Argentina.