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Buying Team for Whole Foods Market, Inc. visited Argentina

Wines of Argentina organized a visit to Mendoza by two US buyers from the Whole Foods chain. Geoffrey Ryan and William Douglas Bell, both from the National Buying Team at Whole Foods Market Inc, stayed in our province from November 11 to 14 and came in search of wineries and wines to incorporate into their portfolio.

Wines of Argentina organized a visit to Mendoza by two US buyers from the Whole Foods chain. Geoffrey Ryan and William Douglas Bell, both from the National Buying Team at Whole Foods Market Inc, stayed in our province from November 11 to 14 and came in search of wineries and wines to incorporate into their portfolio.

The Whole Foods Market group is a world leader in natural and organic foods, and strongly supports local, sustainable agriculture and the preservation of the environment. They have been present in the US market for more than 30 years, and have subsidiaries in the United Kingdom and Canada. They have more than 310 stores, 10 distribution centers and employ more than 62,000 people.

The buyers who visited us participated in a grand tasting and had the chance to taste 75 samples from various Argentine wineries.

The experts talked to Wines of Argentina:

Geof Ryan

 What was your impression of your trip to Argentina?

Most people in the US think of South America as a single entire wine producing region that is experiencing growth. However, Argentina’s continental climate is so different from that of Chile that my message to those working with me is that though grapes might probably be the same, the resulting wine is very different. Though both countries may have similar climates, water and sun – maybe not similar soils – their differences become evident in their wines.

 We tasted 75 wines. All of them had a distinct Argentine character and were very pleasant wines. And this is what I want to tell my people: Argentine wines may still be under development, but you’re definitely a world-class wine producing country already.

 What type of wine does your consumer prefer?

The US consumer wants Malbec from Argentina, and there is a small group who is interested in Torrontés. Those are the two favorite varieties. Some Bonardas I tasted were very good and I think some blends (those with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot) were very good too. In the US, Argentine wines are considered to be inexpensive wines, and we need to work hard to show the world that they are also wines of international standing that could pass as French wines. If you didn’t read the label, you’d think they’re Bordeaux wines.

 What would the next step be? We’ve had the chance to do business here, and we’ll surely buy Argentine wines. But this visit is really about learning about the region, about Argentina’s growth, its wines and the wonderful job wine producers are doing, to later transfer our impressions to our people. This is something we’re not conveying to consumers at the moment; we think we’re just buying “price wines.” But we’ll change that.

 

 Doug Bell

 What were your expectations before coming to Argentina?

We didn’t have any preconceived ideas before coming to Argentina (for the first time). At present US consumers regard your products as great value wines that cost 10 or 12 dollars or less. Our message to them is that they are mistaken: quality here is exceptional, as good or even better than any other wine they may have tasted from other countries. Argentina is unique and sophisticated.

 I think that when approaching the US market, you should focus on educating US consumers on the different Argentine wine regions to change the perception of Argentina as one large vineyard, producing only “price wines.” For instance, Tupungato wines are as unique as the wines from Napa Valley, Sonoma, Pomerol or the Australian valleys. This is the only way in which you could expand and achieve price points of 20, 30, 40, 50 and even 100 dollars.

 Are US consumers ready to get to know more details about Argentine wines?

Yes, US consumers are ready to learn about wine regions. They’re interested in knowing where exactly wines, meat, cheese, tomatoes, oranges come from. We, and you, can educate consumers on the different wine growing regions. This is a great opportunity for you to show off the different varieties you have. We’ve tasted such good wines that we wouldn’t like to stick to Malbec only. You also have Chardonnay and the same main varietals existing in any wine region around the world.

 Were you surprised by the quality of the 75 wines you tasted?

The quality was very good. There was a lot of diversity. Each Malbec we tasted was different. The whites and the blends were incredible. I think there are good prospects for the sparkling wines in the 20 dollar price point category.

 How would you rate the promotion of Argentine wines in your market?

I think you should focus on the social press, the social networks (Facebook and Twitter) and carry out promotional actions on the web. Today, I think this is more effective than advertising on magazines and newspapers. Nobody reads ads on papers or magazines; people only read articles and recipes. You shouldn’t invest your marketing money on ads because you’ll waste your money.

I’m so happy about this trip to Argentina. The wines were very good, people were very nice and food was awesome. I’d love to come back!