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Argentina must look beyond Malbec, leading Argentinian winemaker says

Published:  17 March, 2015

Argentina needs to look beyond Malbec in order to take avoid commoditising its flagship grape, the former president of Wines of Argentina has said.

Alberto Arizu, former president of Wines of Argentina and chief executive of leading producer Bodega Luigi Bosca, said Argentina needs to use consumer demand for Malbec as a springboard to develop a more sophisticated offering in the UK.

Argentina has successfully created the big brand "Malbec" he said, and although it had so far avoided commoditisation, it needed to continue to develop its offering.

"We are conscious of commoditisation and learnt from Australia and the growth of Shiraz," he said. "But we need to move on from 'Brand Malbec' and explore what Argentina is capable of."

"Today there is a clear message - Argentina equals Malbec, but we need to have a more sophisticated message for a more sophisticated consumer. Now they want to discover new things and the difficulty is to evolve a clear message of more evolved wine. It is the only way to avoid the commoditisation."

The country had a huge diversity of terroirs even within small areas, he said, and regional terroirs were a good a basis of differentiation - but the challenge was to discover and manage this diversity of soils, and use it to build a clear message for consumers.

"We are now showing the regionality of Malbec and developing its complexity in terms of regions," he said.

Bodega Luigi Bosca, ArgentinaBodega Luigi Bosca, Argentina

However he argued that Argentina was not "just Malbec" and growers needed to be activated to look beyond it. There were other grapes and styles that could be developed further, he said.

"I am not sure if any other grape can grow as big as Malbec in the UK, but red blends could be attractive to UK consumers, he said. "Cabernet Franc has wonderful potential but production is too small at the moment. It is one of the most promising grapes in Argentina and produces very distinguished characteristics compared to other countries."

Pinot Noir was increasingly a key variety for the US market, he said, and Torrontes also had potential, along with Riesling, which could be "challenging" to grow in Argentina above 1000m.

"The big challenge for Argentina is showing it has interested wines in terms of passion and personality," he said.

Bodega Luigi Bosca supplies premium wines in the UK through London-based specialist supplier Bancroft Wines. Around 70% of its sale are through the on-trade, but the company also supplies quality independents.

A recent report from Wine Business Solutions, looking at the volume and value of wine listings achieved by the major wine producing countries in the UK across the mainstream on-trade sector showed Argentina was the second fastest growing country in the UK on-trade, after Spain.The Wine On-Premise report saw sales of Argentinian wine rose 12% and now account for more than 5% of all UK listings.