“Malbec and its blends are the best wines of Argentina”
Michael Schachner, journalist and editor of the Wine Enthusiast Magazine, visited Argentina between November 17 and 23. His visit was part of the activities planned by Wines of Argentina to promote Argentine wines in the US market.
This wine expert visited a series of wineries located in different wine regions of Mendoza, where he talked to winery owners and winemakers, tasted a large number of wines and had meetings with company directors. Moreover, he met with Wines of Argentina’s president, Alberto Arizu (Jr).
His itinerary included visits to the following wineries: Kaikén, CAP Vistalba, Mendel, Caro, Achával Ferrer, Ruca Malen, Viña Cobos, Goulart, Lurton, Doña Paula, O’Fournier, Benegas, Trivento, Trapiche, Navarro Correas, Alta Vista, Renacer and Cheval des Andes.
Michael Schachner is a New York-based journalist specializing in wine, food and travel. His articles are published regularly in Wine Enthusiast, for which he is a contributing editor and a member of the tasting panel. He is also a wine consultant and professional speaker. His areas of expertise include Spanish and South American wines.
During his visit to Bodega Alta Vista, he took some time to talk to Wines of Argentina.
How would you evaluate your trip to Argentina?
It was an excellent trip. I learned a lot about particular areas and about the differences between the departments of the “Primera Zona” [Mendoza’s premium winemaking area] and of the Uco Valley. I gained better insights into the different terroirs of Mendoza and I also established contact with many important wineries. I found it was really worth it.
How many times have you visited Argentina?
This is my sixth trip.
Have you noticed any evolution in the wine industry? If so, in what aspects mainly?
Yes, definitely. My first visit was in 2001, and I see now that the wine industry has grown in size and quality. Today wines are cleaner and better in every aspect, and wineries are more modern. I have also seen more concrete tanks than in the past. I think that the best wine growers have discovered the advantages of using concrete, after many years of using only stainless steel for fermentation.
What can you tell us about the wines you tasted?
Torrontés wines from Cafayate and Salta are still my favorite whites. I think that Argentine white wines are better than their American counterparts, and I prefer those with less oak. Regarding Malbec and blends, they keep their leading position: they are undoubtedly the best wines in Argentina. I tasted very few sparkling wines and some rosés.
What kind of wines do US consumers prefer these days?
You just have to look at the figures. Malbec is the perfect example. American consumers prefer full-bodied wines with intense color and flavor, but also well-balanced and good value wines. That’s why Malbec is so popular now. It has quite a bright future ahead as long as the wine industry keeps quality standards up and does not launch too many low quality brands.
What actions should Argentine wineries take to continue growing in the US market?
Argentina needs to guarantee quality. Nobody needs any more cheap or low quality wine. Quality is key.
What do people in the US think about Argentine wines?
I think that Argentine wines are quite popular and have a very good reputation; they are also perceived to be products with a very good price-quality relationship. I believe that consumers here think and know that Malbec and its blends are good, and constitute a good alternative to other well-established reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Bordeaux wines and wines from Italy and Spain.
What are other competitors doing to increase their share in the US market?
Probably the same you’re doing: focusing on making good value, good quality wines. They’re investing in marketing, public relations and trips to the US, which can only lead to the best possible quality in wine making. Argentina’s advantage is to have volume, good prices and quality in every price range: 10 dollars and under, 10 to 20 dollars and higher priced wines.