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News - 17.03.11

“It is time to pass Malbec’s success on to other varieties”

Wines of Argentina was recently visited by two renowned international journalists: PhD Publisher Michael Potashnik and Editor Donald Winkler from the specialized publication International Wine Review (US).

Wines of Argentina was recently visited by two renowned international journalists: PhD Publisher Michael Potashnik and Editor Donald Winkler from the specialized publication International Wine Review (US). Both professionals, who boast outstanding CVs, have been linked to the wine industry for over 25 years and have traveled, studied, and tasted extensively in several wine-producing countries.

The aim of this visit was to write a new report for Wines of Argentina in order to educate importers, sommeliers and retailers, as well as fans of the publication. To that end, they visited wineries in Patagonia and Mendoza, where they also tasted wines from San Juan. They finished their trip in Buenos Aires, making contact with wineries from the northern region.

“The visit to Neuquén and Río Negro was new to us. We had already been to Mendoza five years before to write a report on Malbec,” Donald Winkler said. “It has been very interesting to see how these varietals have developed and improved. In Patagonia, a place we had never been to, we found excellent wines.”

Regarding Argentina’s iconic varietal, the visitors agreed that they found many more blends with other varietals, often resulting in more complex wines. “We also became very interested in Torrontés: We tasted it in Salta, Mendoza and also Neuquén, where we noticed great progress. Its floral bouquet has been controlled, achieving a mineral body. Wines are more elegant than years ago.”

The experts expect to see a further evolution of Malbec, which means more diversification, and they suggested blending it with Cabernet Franc, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. “This way, we foresee an interesting future. Both Malbec and Torrontés are varieties which suit the North American market. “Wine which is made correctly, so that it is dry and mineral, will always find a customer who will appreciate it,” they stated.

In their tight schedule – the journalists tasted over 250 wines in a week – they had the chance to visit and enjoy some tourist places as well. They highlighted the wonderful time spent at the hotels in Patagonia, the gourmet lunches at the Shroeder winery, and Salentein’s hospitality.

“We are thinking of including a section on Argentine food and wine in our report. We have been impressed by the empanadas from the different regions: We will focus our report on wine diversification and will study the empanadas from Salta, Mendoza and the South. I think it would be interesting to show the different ingredients used in their preparation,” Donald Winkler said.

In their previous research, the journalists had visited Mendoza in order to find out why Argentina achieved such success with the Malbec grape variety, which had been a failure in France. They also looked into everything that involves grape-growing, irrigation systems, winemaking characteristics, and main producers in the different areas of the region. This time, they examined the production of Malbec and became acquainted with the industry in other regions of the country. They also observed how new varieties – such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – are being used to make wine, especially in Patagonia. Their report will also cover the intense diversification achieved in vineyards and the diverse expressions in the various parcels of one lot.

“Undoubtedly, Malbec is Argentina’s main grape variety in its own right. However, the market is constantly changing and evolving, and it is essential to keep in mind what consumers want. Argentina was very successful in promoting Malbec: Nowadays customers at a bar or restaurant often order a glass of Chardonnay, but when ordering red wine, Malbec is the choice. That is an achievement that should not be overlooked. Yet, we consider it risky to stick to only one variety. There are very good wines in Argentina, and it is time to pass Malbec’s success on to other varieties,” Michael Potashnik stated.

Finally, when asked about the promotion of Argentine wines in their country, they answered: “Wine magazines feature a great deal of advertising in connection with Argentina’s image, particularly ads about tango and Malbec. However, what was good in the past will no longer be good in the future – it is necessary to reinvent products, as consumers change their preferences. For example, Spain focuses its marketing on young consumers who in the US are very interested in imported wine. The Spanish design labels to attract those people, something we have not seen in Argentina. It is crucial to be alert and to entice them to experience more. Now that Malbec is well-known, the great challenge is to decide about the next steps to take.”

Market data:

Argentine exports in the US have shown strong growth. Argentina now ranks fourth among countries importing bottled wine into 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 to the US during the period January-May.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 per liter of USD 4.12 for Argentina and of USD 3.51 for Chile, which translates into an average price of USD 37 for Argentina per 9-liter case.