I sat down with Alberto Arizu of Argentina's Bodega Luigi Bosca yesterday. Arizu is on an understandably quick trip to the U.S.—his wife is back home expecting their fifth child soon.
Arizu's winery has steadily become one of the larger Argentine players in the U.S. market, growing from 20,000 cases to 80,000 cases imported here over the past few years (the winery produces over a half-million cases annually). Among Argentine brands at upper price points, Luigi Bosca trails only Bodega Catena Zapata and Bodegas Terrazas de los Andes in terms of volume here. It's been a period of rapid growth for Luigi Bosca that has mirrored the success of Argentine wines in general here, and it's growth that Arizu wants to continue not only for his own winery, but the category as a whole. He's just started his term as president of Wines of Argentina, the winery-funded group that works to promote the Argentine wine industry worldwide. Arizu seems up for the challenge of keeping things moving in the right direction for the group, which is made up of 200 wineries that represent 97 percent of all Argentine wine exports.
"All the goals we set a few years ago, we have achieved," said Arizu in regard to the success that the Argentine wine industry has had. "The growth over the last five years has been huge. But now we have to stop and see where we are, and where we are going. We have to ask ourselves, 'What next?'"
A polished businessman, Arizu can rattle off the industry statistics easily as he talks: Argentina has moved from 2 percent to 8 percent of the market here in the U.S. and has passed Chile for the first time ever. But while the good news in the U.S. market is an obvious feather in the cap for Argentina, Arizu has to also manage a bigger picture while looking long term as well.
"The U.K. has slipped a touch in terms of volume, but value has gone up. Other European markets like the Netherlands and Belgium are good. But there are other markets we have yet to truly develop. Brazil and Mexico could be strong as well," he said. "And then there's China, India and Russia—long-term markets. Russia, for instance, has been great for Argentina's bulk wines. But we're missing a huge opportunity there if we don't develop the market for our bottled wines."
While developing long-term markets will likely mirror the path that Argentina has taken here in the U.S.—overdelivering at low and mid price points with Malbec—keeping the momentum going in developed markets such as the U.S. is also a concern.
"Malbec will always be a great variety for Argentina, clearly," said Arizu. "But Argentina is a huge country, with amazing diversity. We can show that we can do other things, which is why we are focusing now on blends at Luigi Bosca, including one that actually has no Malbec at all."
The wine, which will debut in the 2008 vintage, is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. It will debut alongside a Cabernet Franc-based blend and others. [Note: As always, official reviews, based on formal blind tastings, will be published in the near future.]
Blends are not entirely new to Arizu and his family, which has owned and run their winery since 1901 (you can read more about them in this blog following my visit there in March 2008). The family vineyards total 700 hectares and have been a laboratory of sorts for developing a number of varieties other than Malbec. From Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir to Petit Verdot and Alicante Bouschet, the Arizu vineyards have it all.
Luigi Bosca's 2010 harvest produced 6.5 million bottles of wine, split between the winery's high-end Luigi Bosca label and value-priced Finca Los Lindes wines. The diversity in their vineyards will be a strength going forward for Arizu, who is now not only responsible for making sure his wines get sold, but for helping all his colleagues' wines find success in the world market as well.
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Larry Lascola — Healdsburg, CA, USA — September 10, 2010 9:51am ET
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