Despite the tough economic times, the wine industry marches on. There are still those out there looking for opportunity—Christian Wölffer among them.
Wölffer, whose eponymous Long Island winery produces around 16,500 cases annually, makes no bones about his frustration with that region's wine industry.
"You can’t make money here doing quality," he said bluntly. "You can only make money here if you do volumes."
Consequently, Wölffer has long had his eye on potential projects elsewhere, namely Argentina. He’s been poking around in Mendoza and other parts of the country for six years now, and has finally made a few moves.
"I love the wine culture in Argentina. One, they make great wine, and two, it’s priced competitively. So you can do quality and make some money," he said.
Among Wölffer’s recent moves are a minority share in an ownership group that has bought the Cavas Rosell Boher winery, known for sparkling wine production that has historically been aimed at Argentina’s domestic market, in addition to some exported red and white table wines.
Wölffer is also developing 2,000 acres of land in Mendoza, located at higher elevations on the road leading away from the Bodega Catena Zapata facility. There are already 740 acres planted to a range of grapes, including Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and more, with the first crop due this coming spring. The project, named Santa María de los Andes, will also feature a new winery facility and hotel.
Wölffer isn’t standing pat there—he’s attempting to purchase another winery in one of the northern regions of Argentina (no names can be discussed as the deal is not finalized), and he’s also developing a property just outside of Buenos Aires, the nation’s capital, that will feature several hundred residential units, a spa, golf course and equestrian center.
Wölffer doesn’t mince words—he’s in business for the sake of business. But he knows that quality is key to success, particularly when it comes to wine. His ambitious Long Island winery (he charges $100 for one of his Long Island Merlot bottlings) shows he isn’t afraid to push the envelope, both in terms of quality or marketing.
So while the vinous results from his nascent Argentina projects are still a few years off, he should prove to be an interesting player as the country’s wine industry continues to develop.
The wine industry marches on.
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