Running a winery isn’t easy, especially when quality is your goal. It’s even more difficult coming in mid-stream and trying to effect change at a winery with a lackluster history. That’s the mountain that Juan Marco, 34, is attempting to climb at Argentina’s Navarro Correas.
Marco was hired to improve the wines at this winery, which I have found consistently ho-hum over the years (they received a score of 85 or higher only once). I met with Marco the other day and was pleased to find him frank and open. He doesn’t deny the low quality of Navarro Correas' past, and realizes there is no overnight fix. But starting with the 2004 vintage (his first at the winery), Marco has rolled up his sleeves and gotten to work.
First and foremost is a new level of quality control over the grapes – obviously the most important part of the equation. Navarro Correas owns no vineyards, and instead buys all of its fruit. Prior to Marco, grapes were purchased primarily from the eastern end of Mendoza (generally not the best area) - with little control over the viticulture practiced by the growers – before being blended together in the winemaking process.
Today, Marco has already converted 40 percent of his grape contracts to per surface contracts – so he manages the viticulture and yields of the vineyards to his specifications without the individual growers taking a financial hit for producing fewer grapes. In addition, he’s now vinifying all his growers’ fruit separately, so that he can demonstrate to his growers the effects of various viticultural techniques while exercising more detailed quality control over the wines. Marco, a native Mendozan, is also sourcing grapes from better areas of Mendoza – like La Consulta and Vista Flores.
There will be a few years before the changes Marco is making start to show results in the wines. Since Navarro Correas is a large operation, producing a little more than 300,000 cases a year (with about 65,000 coming to the U.S.), there are undoubtedly a few corporate bean counters watching the bottom line. But I hope the business side of the company lets him do what he needs to, because it sure wasn’t working before.
Robert Gott — Doral/Florida — May 5, 2006 8:35am ET
James Molesworth — May 5, 2006 11:02am ET
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