Argentina: Beyond Malbec

“To Infinity … and Beyond!”

That’s the motto of Buzz Lightyear in the Toy Story movie series. The joke is on Buzz of course — there’s nothing beyond Infinity. It’s infinity all the way out. Try as you might, you’ll never get past it.

The Malbec Buzz

I’m thinking about Buzz and his Infinity dilemma because we are in Argentina right now learning as much as we can about the wine industry here, which is enjoying an unprecedented boom. Especially Malbec, which accounts for 60% of Argentinean wine exports to the U.S. market.

The Malbec boom must provide a Lightyear buzz for Argentinean wine makers. Malbec seems to go on and on … not to infinity, but certainly as far as the eye can see.

What Lies Beyond?

What lies beyond Malbec? That’s one of the questions I wanted to ask Andrés Rosberg, President of the Association of Argentinean Sommeliers and a judge for the Decanter World Wine Awards.Andrés was way ahead of me, of course. He invited us to lunch at Hernan Gioppini Restaurant (where he is executive sommelier) at the Fiero Hotel in the lively Palermo duistrict of Buenos Airea. As the wine and food arrived over the course of several hours, I found some satisfying answers to my “Beyond Malbec” question.

Knowing that we would expect Malbec, Andrés orchestrated a meal that surprised at every turn. Malbec ultimately made an appearance, but not until the final act in the form of a fortified Port-style dessert wine.

The road to Malbec (or beyond it, if you see what I mean) was an exploration of the nearly infinite possibilities that Argentina’s complex terroir provides.

Messages in the Bottles

Each wine had a story to tell. Gewurtztraminer (and a Blanc de Noir sparkler) spoke to the cool-climate potential of the Uco Valley.  Semillon, an underapprecaited variety almost everywhere, is underappreciated in Mendoza, too, where it has deep roots and “old vine” vineyards.Fine Semillon wines are here, however, waiting to be re-discovered.

Chardonnay spoke to Argentina’s ability to make distinctive wines from the “international” varieties. This wine argued for Argentina as a complete player and not just limited to one or two particular roles.

And the fortified Malbec? I guess it was there to tell us that Beyond Malbec may be more Malbec, but not just Malbec and not necessarily the same old Malbec, either.

But that still leaves a problem. “If you build it, they will come.” That’s a line from another film, Field of Dreams. Will Argentina’s future beyond Malbec be dream or reality? Will the world’s consumers answer the call? More to follow in upcoming reports.


This is the first in a series of posts based on our recent visit to Argentina. I’ll be writing about the past, present and future of Argentinean wine (and wine tourism) and examining the strengths, weakness, threats and opportunities of this fascinating wine region.

Thanks to Andrés Rosberg for his hospitality and to Hernan Gipponi for a wonderful meal. Special thanks to my research assistants, Sue Veseth, Scott Hogman and Janice Brevik, for their help with this project.

Here is a list of the wines Andrés used to tell the “Beyond Malbec” story along with Hernan Gipponi’s cuisine.

Tasting Menu

Breaded veal tongue stuffed with brie cheese & sundried tomatoes and piquillo peppers sauce paired with Chandon Cuvée Reserve Pinot Noir

Baby squid & pickled vegetables salad
Rutini Gewürztraminer 2009

Rabbit liver & spinach ravioli with mushroom stock
Ricardo Santos Sémillon 2010

White salmon with ajoblanco, almonds, roasted tomatoes, zucchinis & bean pods
Miguel Escorihuela Gascón Pequeñas Producciones Chardonnay 2009

Iced lullo, litchis, caramelized pumpkin seeds & yogurt foam
Rutini Vin Doux Naturel (Sémillon – Verdicchio) 2007

Allspice philo pastry, chocolate cream, apple, saffron ice cream & cardamom milk
Rutini Vino Dulce Encabezado de Malbec 2007


3 responses

  1. Mike,
    Sounds like a great trip. I really enjoyed my visit to Argentina a few years ago.
    Malbec from Argentina is fantastic, but without diversification, Argentina could become another Australia (All Shiraz, all the time, in the minds of the average consumer).
    I love the Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Viogniers, and blends.
    Still not totally sold on Torrontes, it’s often too flabby. Seems like it can’t decide between being fruity or being crisp.
    Love the menu…no beef? My trip was to wine country, so all we ate was beef, lamb and goat, all the time.


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