Argentina is the most exciting wine producing country – and as the fifth-largest producer in the world, (although it exports only eight per cent of its production,) Argentina has the edge as far as volume is concerned.
Don’t be fooled into thinking we’ll just see a flood of dirt-cheap poor quality Argentinian plonk sloshing around our shores. Inevitably, some supermarkets will insist on the lowest common denominator, but wine makers in the new Argentina want to make a new kind of wine – and that means moving up-market.
Along with investment has come a realization that producers need to band together to promote not just their own wines but Argentina as a whole – an interesting concept for former bitter rivals on the domestic Custom Wine Cellars market.
The future is all about building the name, not the volume, and it will mean concentrating on reds. They have more personality and are in an Argentinian style. To do that though, we must convince our growers to change their approach. They were used to producing quantity and not quality.
Most producers see the vineyard as the next frontier and aren’t just developing new training methods but more water-efficient methods of irrigation. The grape is the most important thing today and that means managing irrigation and changing the culture of the men who work in the vineyard and Custom Wine Cellars.
If viticulture was as new in Mendoza as it is in, it would be easier to change, but people have been used to irrigating right until they picked because they got paid according to the weight of the grapes. Now we have to stop that. Equally, they must persuade growers to allow the grapes to hang for longer.
But go to Italy, for example, and you’ll still find wealthy and sophisticated businessmen who report with surprise their recent discovery that California can produce wine that is, ‘Not bad at all’. France, led by Bordeaux, still has control of the ball in other parts of Europe and in Asia.
Looking at some of the dire bottles of basic Saint Emilion that are being sold in these countries, it is easy for British wine drinkers to be condescending. Wines that are actually supposed to be non-aromatic and non-fruity, such as Soave and Muscadet are now as handicapped as a film with subtitles and without a nude scene or a car chase.
The other problem is a tendency to confuse cheapness with value. One of the reasons we may be falling out of love with Bordeaux is that we tend to focus too .- much of our attention on examples that sell for less. Few would doubt that Argentina is right in the middle of an economic boom.