Argentina’s wine exports defy crisis

An expert tastes a glass of Malbec, the leading Argentinian export in 2009.

An expert tastes a glass of Malbec, the leading Argentinian export in 2009.

Winston F. Burges

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Despite the international crisis, Argentina’s wine exports between January and June 2009 were 13.7 percent higher than for the same period in 2008. Their leading wines are made from world-renowned Malbec grapes, grown in the vineyards of Mendoza.

The most recent wine-industry figures show that there was also a two percent increase in the price of exported wine in the first half of 2009. Jose Zuccardi, a partner in Bodegas Zuccardi, the country’s third largest wine exporter, told EFE that “the crisis was an opportunity because in these times people often change their consumption habits. This allowed us to introduce consumers’ palates to the Malbec produced in Argentina.”

According to Zuccardi, Argentina’s wineries are at an advantage, as they offer high-quality products at competitive international prices. Canada and the U.S. were by far the largest importers of Argentinian wines, accounting for 55 percent and 42 percent of exports, respectively, followed by Germany and Switzerland. On the other hand, the crisis has caused exports to Brazil, Denmark and Mexico to plummet.

Malbec has been the variety most responsible for the country's wine export boom. At the beginning of the year, Wine Spectator published the results of a survey showing that U.S. consumers chose it as their favorite wine in times of crisis.

Carlos Pulenta, the owner of Bodega Vistalba, one of Argentina’s most respected wine producers, told La Nación that “Malbec is in vogue nowadays. Things look very promising and the wineries are working well. What happened is that the crisis…gave us a boost.”

La Nación also pointed out that the country’s wines in general have benefitted from the comments of U.S. wine critic Robert Parker, who forecast ten years ago that Argentinian Malbec would become an enormous success.

Wine exports have a bright future. Wine expert Susana Balbo, head of “Wines of Argentina” exporters, told La Nación, if inflation is corrected and infrastructure improved, Argentinian producers could capture ten percent of the world market within a few years.

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