Flashback Friday: Malbec World Day

Wines of Argentina has designated Sunday April 17 Malbec World Day 2016. That’s only a week away, so you had better get started thinking about how you will celebrate this holiday. Please use the comments section below to share your Malbec World Day plans.

Malbec World Day is a good excuse for a Flashback Friday column since Malbec has appeared frequently in these pages in the context of the Argentinean wine industry. Malbec was, for example, the subject of an award-winning  documentary called “Boom Varietal: the Rise of Argentine Malbec”  (see video trailer above) that provided my first (and so far only) opportunity to be a supporting character in a film.

Here is a column from back in 2011 that honors all Malbec producers by revisiting Mendel Wines (a bottle of Mendel Malbec is on the short list of possibilities for our Malbec World Day celebration along with a “flashback” tribute Malbec from Colomé called Auténtico).

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Balance is the key to great wine (and profitable wine business, too). I was reminded of this truth many times during our visit to Mendoza, where wine makers are trying to chart a course between and among several extremes:

  • Competitive export sales versus the challenging domestic market;
  • Reliable value wine sales versus potentially more profitable premium products;
  • Popular and successful Malbec versus TNBT — The (speculative and uncertain) Next Big Thing.

The key to long term success involves finding the right balance in this complex economic environment.

I want to use this post to consider three types of balance that I think are particularly interesting in Mendoza – the balance between crisis and opportunity,  local and international winemaking influences and the simple tension between the old and the new.  We learned about all three dimensions during our brief visit to Mendel Wines in Lujan de Cuyo.

Crisis and Opportunity

Mendel is both very old and quite new.  The vineyards are old, planted in 1928. Somehow these Malbec vines survived the ups and downs of the Argentinean economy. The winery is almost as old and has a certain decaying charm. It stands in stark contrast to Salentein, O. Fournier, the Catena Zapata pyramid and the many other starkly modernist structures that have sprung up in this part of the world.

The winery project is quite new. Mendel is a partnership between Anabelle Sielecki and Roberto de la Mota and is the result of a balance between crisis and opportunity. When economic crisis struck Argentina ten years ago, opportunities were created for those with vision and entrepreneurial spirit. Anabelle and Roberto seized the moment and purchased these old vines and well-worn structures for their new super premium winery project.

That their impulse was timely and wise may not have been obvious at the time (crises are like that), but it is perfectly clear now. Wine Advocate named Mendel one of nine “Best of the Best” Argentinean wineries in a recent issue.[1]

Old and New

The winemaking that goes on in Mendel is also a combination of old and new. The technology is modern, of course, with stainless steel and French oak very visible. The setting, however, constantly reminds you of the past and the vineyard’s and winery’s history. Walking through the winery, for example, I was struck by the big original concrete fermenting tanks – a blast from the past for sure.

No, we don’t use them to ferment the wines anymore, Cecilia Albino told us, but we put them to good use. Peek inside. Sure enough, the tanks were filled with oak barrels full of wine aging quietly in the cool environment.

Mendel also illustrates the balance between local and global that characterizes wine in Argentina, where much of the capital and many of the winemakers come from abroad.  Roberto de la Mota, partner and chief winemaker at Mendel, personifies this balance. Roberto is the son of  Raúl de la Mota, who is sometimes said to be Argentina’s “winemaker of the [20th] century” so important was his work in developing quality wine in this country.

Roberto naturally grew up in the wine business both here and in France, where he sought advanced training on the advice of Emile Peynaud. He was the winemaker at Terrazas, Chandon’s still wine project in Mendoza, and then at Cheval des Andes, a winery with connections to Château Cheval Blanc. I think it is fair to say that Roberto’s resume represents a balance between local and global, between deep understanding of Mendoza terroir and knowledge that perhaps only international influences can provide.

Local and Global

I asked Roberto if it was important that Mendel is an Argentinean project and not owned by a foreign multinational. Yes of course, he said, but he hesitated a bit and I think I see why. Many of the influences and markets are international, but people, vines and inspiration are  purely local. Not one or another, but intertwined, balanced.

And this thirst for a complex balance defines the future. Talking with Anabelle over coffee in Buenos Aires, she was ambitious to break into new markets – Hong Kong, China, and so forth. Anabelle is an architect — another field where global and local intersect.

Meeting with Roberto at the winery in Mendoza, he was interested in learning even more about his vines and terroir so as to better develop their potential. And to bring more of the classic Bordeaux grape varieties (like Petit Verdot) into the mix.

Mendel has charted its balanced course quickly, purposefully and well.  It is a perfect illustration of both the tensions that define wine in Argentina and the potential for success if a clear but balanced path is boldly taken.


[1] The other “Best of the Best” wineries in Wine Advocate issue 192 are Achaval Ferrer, Alta Vista, Catena Zapata, Viña Cobos, Colomé Reserva, Luca, Tikal and Yacochuya.

Flashback Friday: Malbec & Maradona

51gap2blvbgl-_sx332_bo1204203200_Here is another Flashback Friday column in honor of Malbec World Day, which Wines of Argentina has set for Sunday, April 17. This is a book review from 2012 that links Malbec, Argentina’s signature grape variety, with Diego Maradona, one of that country’s legendary soccer stars.

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Ian Mount, The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec. Norton: 2011.

Malbec and Maradona

One of the most stunningly creative student papers I’ve received in more than 30 years as a college professor was written by a first year student enrolled in my introductory International Political Economy class. We were studying Argentina’s latest financial crisis and she analyzed the situation not just through facts and figures but rather by telling the story of Diego Maradona, the legendary soccer player who achieved great success on the global stage but succumbed to the pressures, stresses and temptations that came with it.

Maradona is always measured against Pele, the Brazilian star who is often proclaimed the greatest soccer player in history, and every talented young Argentinean forward is compared to  him (Messi is only the latest “next Maradona”). But an air of tragedy is unmistakable despite Maradona’s heroic achievements. This same air, my student wrote, hangs over Argentina’s politics and economy, and then she proceeded to analyze Argentina’s political economy history in detail in  terms of the Maradona story. It was, in both conception and execution, a brilliant analysis.

Ian Mount’s new book on Argentinean wine, The Vineyard at the End of the World, is also brilliant and in much the same way. Like my student’s paper, it can be read at several levels. It is, first and foremost, a history of the Argentinean wine industry from its roots with the Spanish explorers to its current spectacular flowering.

Although Argentina has been a major wine producer for literally centuries, it has only arrived on the global stage in the last ten years. Within Argentina its long history is heavy baggage that sometimes weighs it down. For the rest of the world, however, Argentina is a new discovery and the lack of prior experience of and attitudes toward its wines has arguably been an advantage.

Mount fills us in on the history and serious readers will appreciate the added depth this gives to the appreciation of the wines themselves. It also provides an interesting contrast to neighboring Chile and its wines, whose history is perhaps better known. But that’s only the beginning.ce1509cd596b49b050639487b3d03dcc

 Lucky Survivors

Malbec is a second theme, which is understandable because Malbec is king in Argentina right now. Malbec from Argentina has been one of the hottest product categories in the U.S. wine market is the past few years. But today’s Malbec (like Maradona) is a lucky survivor of Argentina’s booms and busts – a lot of Malbec was grubbed up during the market swings and swirls. It makes me appreciate wines (like one of our favorites, Mendel Malbec) that are made from the surviving old vine blocks.

More than anything, however, this is a history of Argentina itself told through wine, making this a book that deserves a very broad readership. Based on my previous research, I knew that Argentina’s politics and economics were reflected in the wine industry, but I didn’t know how much. Come for the Malbec, stay for the politics, economics and personal stories of those who succeeded or failed (or did both) and try to understand the country and people of Argentina.

Significantly, the book ends with a sort of Maradona moment. In terms of wine, Argentina has won the World Cup with Malbec, although the country must share the glory with international consultants (like Paul Hobbs and Michel Rolland) and foreign investors and partners (too numerous to mention). But for all its strengths the industry is still somewhat fragile, struggling to overcome the problems of the domestic wine market that it still depends upon and the domestic economy in which it is embedded.

After decades of “crisis and glory,” Mount sees a  bright future for both Malbec and Argentina. Let’s hope he’s right and the Maradona moment passes.e91c4e409ca6d78d656bc85a82fa6422

Ian Mount’s new book is a valuable addition to any wine enthusiast’s library. Mount provides a strong sense of the land and people of Argentina and the flow of history that connects them. Argentina is unique, as Mount notes early on, in that it is an Old World wine country (in terms of the nature of its wine culture) set in the New World, so that its history is broadly relevant and deeply interesting.

I studied the Argentina industry before going there last year, but Mount taught me things I didn’t know in every chapter. I love Laura Catena’s Vino Argentino for its account of the history of wine in Argentina told through the Catena family story and now I’m glad to also have The Vineyard at the End of the World for its broad sweep and detailed analysis. They are must reading for anyone with an interest in Argentina and its wines.

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Editor’s note: The way this 2012 book review ends with the reference to a “Maradona moment” is timely because of the recent election of the Macri government. I wrote two columns on Argentina wine’s prospects for revival back in January 2016. Click here and here to read them.

Here’s a short video about Maradona.

Celebrating Malbec World Day 2015


April 17, 2015 is Malbec World Day — a great opportunity to pull the cork on a bottle of Malbec wine and to appreciate how quickly this grape variety has come to be an important part of the U.S. and global wine scene.

I have a warm spot in my heart for Malbec because it reminds me of all the nice people and great wines Sue and I encountered during our visit to Argentina a few years ago.  So many interesting experiences learning about old vine Malbec from Roberto De La Mota at Mendel winery, about Malbec -Cabernet blends at Catena and that Argentina is much more than Malbec at a special tasting arranged by Andrés Rosberg.

My appreciation of Malbec deepened when I was asked to take part in the award-winning 2011 documentary Boom Varietal: The Rise of Argentine Malbec produced by Kirk Ermish and directed by Sky Pinnick.  The economics of the Malbec story came to play a surprisingly large part in the film and so I had more screen time than I would ever have expected.

Malbec’s story is inevitably associated with Argentina, but it has become a world-wide phenomenon, breathing life into the Malbec industry back home in its native France (where it is often called Côt) and opening doors to wine-growers around the world (perhaps especially here in the Pacific Northwest).

I’ll be toasting the rise of Malbec with a glass of … what else? … Argentinean Malbec on April 17. Please join me. Cheers!

European Wine Economists Meeting Update

The European Association of Wine Economists is meeting this June and they’ve asked me to post details about the sessions, which sound very interesting and worthwhile.

You can find current information about the meetings by clicking on this link. Here is the program for the conference, which I copied from the website. Take a look at what’s on offer this year.

Wednesday June 4, 2014

14:00 Registration
14:30 – 15:00 OPENING
15:00 – 16:30
Keynote 1: Antoine BAILLY – Univ. de Génève, CH
“Wine and Divine: from Bacchanals to Prohibitionism”
Keynote 2: Jon H. HANF – Universität Geisenheim, DE
“Pay what you want – A New Pricing Strategy for Wine Tastings? “ ( joint paper with Oliver GIERING )
16:30 – 17:00 Coffee break with signing of the book “Wine Economics” by the editors
17:00 – 18:30
Keynote 3: Johan SWINNEN – LICOS, KU Leuven, BE
“The Rise and Fall of the World’s Largest Wine Exporter and its Institutional Legacy” 
(joint paper with Giulia MELONI)
Keynote 4: Ricardo SELLERS-RUBIO, Univ. Alicante, SP
“The Economic Efficiency of Wineries of Protected Designations of Origin” (joint paper with Francisco MAS-RUIZ)
18:30 – 19:00 Signing of the book “Wine Economics” by the editors, welcome drink
20:00
Thursday June 5, 2014
8:15 Inscription and coffee
SESSION 1

8:30 – 10:30 WINE as INVESTMENT and INVESTMENT in WINE
chaired by

Foreign Direct Investment in the Wine and Spirits Sector 
J. François OUTREVILLE 
HEC Montréal, CA
A Barrel of Oil or a Bottle of Wine: How do Global Growth Dynamics Affect Commodity Prices? 
Serhan CEVIK , Tahsin SAADI-SEDIK
International Monetary Fund, US
History and Rational Market Values of French Vineyards,
Optimal Financing of the Vineyard in the Major Countries of the Euro Zone. (EN)

Historique des valeurs de marché et raisonnée du vignoble français. Financement optimal du vignoble dans les principaux pays viticoles de la zone euro. (FR)
Alain DALLOT 
Consulting actuary graduate in viticulture-oenology, FR
Long-run Relationships between Prices of Fine Wines and Stock Market Indices 
Jan BENTZEN , Valdemar SMITH
Aarhus Univ., DK
Wine and Gold as Alternative Investments: Which one is the Best? 
Beysül AYTAC , Thi Hong Van HOANG, Cyrille MANDOU
Groupe Sup de Co Montpellier Business School, FR
Wine Funds – An Alternative Turning Sour? 
Philippe MASSET , Jean-Philippe WEISSKOPF
Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, CH
Wine – Investment: A Profitable Alternative Investment or a Simple Long Term Pleasure? 
Marie-Claude PICHERY , Catherine PIVOT
LEDI Univ. de Bourgogne & Centre Magellan, Univ. Jean Moulin – Lyon 3, FR

10:30 – 11:00Break “Mâchon” (typical morning snack in Lyon)

SESSION 2a

11:00 – 13:00

PROSPECTIVES & STRATEGIES
chaired by

Prospect (Perspective) of a Strategic Option of Developing and Boosting the Algerian Vineyard 
Nasser SARAOUI 
Institut technique de l’arboriculture fruitière et de la vigne, DZ
Trade Liberalization in the Presence of Domestic Regulations:
Likely Impacts of the TTIP on Wine Markets
 

Bradley RICKARD , Olivier GERGAUD, Wenjing HU
Cornell Univ., US & KEDGE- Bordeaux Business School, FR
Towards Sustainability in the Wine Industry through Engineering and Management Tools 
Stella Maris UDAQUIOLA , Rosa RODRIGUEZ, Susana ACOSTA, María CASTRO, María Verónica BENAVENTE, Marcelo ECHEGARAY, Ricardo SIERRA
Instituto de Ingeniería Química – Universidad nacional de San Juan, AR
Wine as a Cultural Good: Stakes of a Recognition 
Véronique CHOSSAT , Cyril NOBLOT
Univ. de Reims, FR
How to Improve Wine Quality? The Challenge facing South African Cooperatives 
Joachim EWERT , Jon H. HANF , Erik SCHWEICKERT
Univ. Stellenbosch, ZA & Univ. Geisenheim, DE
Price or Quality Competition? Old World, New World and Rising Stars in Wine Export 
Diego LUBIAN, Angelo ZAGO 
Università degli Studi di Verona, IT
Winners and Losers in the Global Wine Industry 
Geoffrey LEWIS , Tatiana ZALAN, Matthew SCHEBELLA
Melbourne Business School, Torrens Univ. & Univ. South Australia, AU
SESSION 2b

11:00 – 13:00

 

GASTRONOMY, TESTING and HEALTH 
chaired by

Restaurants and BYOB: What Do Consumers Expect and Who Are They? 
Nelson A. BARBER , D. Christopher TAYLOR
Univ. New Hampshire & Univ. Houston, US
The Profiles of Worldwide Gastronomy 
Quentin BONNARD , Christian BARRÈRE, Véronique CHOSSAT
Univ. de Reims, FR
Analysis of Consumers’ Sensory Preferences of Nanche (byrsonima crassifolia) Liquor in the South of the State of Mexico. 
Erandi TENA, Javier J. RAMÍREZ, Jessica AVITIA , Tirzo CASTAÑEDA
Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México, MX
Evaluation of the Influence of the Interaction tannin-anthocyanin over the tannin-protein Binding and its Effect on the Perception of Astringency in Red Wines 
Marcela MEDEL , Alvaro PEÑA, Elias OBREQUE, Lopez REMIGIO-LOPEZ
Facultad de Ciencias Agronomicas & Faculta de Medicina, Univ. Chile, CL
Gastronomic Supply and Touristic Clientele 
Christian BARRÈRE , Quentin BONNARD, Elsa GATELIER
Univ. de Reims, FR
Is a Sequential, Profiling Approach useful for Predicting Match Perceptions in Food and Wine? 
Robert HARRINGTON, Lobat SIAHMAKOUN, Nelson A. BARBER 
Univ. Arkansas & Univ. New Hampshire, US

13:00 – 14:00Frugal Lunch

SESSION 3a

14:00 – 16:00

WINE PRODUCTION and MARKETS in the WINE VALUE CHAIN
chaired by

Comparison of Selected Determinants of Chosen European Wine Markets 
Helena CHLÁDKOVÁ, Sylvie FORMÁNKOVÁ , Pavel TOMŠÍK
Mendel Univ. in Brno, CZ
Tournament Mechanism in the Wine-Grape Contracts:
Evidence from a French Wine Cooperative 

M’hand FARES, Luis OROZCO 
INRA Toulouse, UMR AGIR: Univ. de Toulouse, LEREPS, FR
Unperceived Costs: A Dilemma for French Wine-Growers 
Joëlle BROUARD, Benoît LECAT 
School of Wine and Spirits Business & ESC Dijon/Burgundy School of Business, FR
Adaptation to Climate Change in the French Vineyards:
An Innovation System Approach (EN)
Etudier l’adaptation aux changements climatiques des vignobles français:
une analyse par les Systèmes d’Innovation 
(FR)
James BOYER, Jean-Marc TOUZARD 
INRA, UMR Innovation Montpellier, FR
Characterization of Chilean Bottled Wine Market 
Miguel A. FIERRO , Rodrigo ROMO
Universidad del Bío-Bío, CL
Producer Single Commodity Transfer: A Comparison of Policy Intervention Between Wine and Other European Agriculture Products 
Davide GAETA , Paola CORSINOVI
Department of Business Administration, Univ. Verona, IT

 

SESSION 3b

14:15 – 16:00

WINE EDUCATION and WINE PREFERENCES
Chaired by

Are Today’s Consumers Ready to Buy the Wines of Tomorrow? (EN)
Les consommateurs d’aujourd’hui sont-ils prêts à accepter les vins de demain ? (FR) 

Alejandro FUENTES, Eric GIRAUD-HERAUD , Stéphanie PERES,
Alexand re PONS, Sophie TEMPERE, Philippe DARRIET
INRA et GREThA, Bordeaux Sciences Agro & ISVV, Univ. de Bordeaux, FR
The Impact of General Public Wine Education Courses on Consumer Perception 
Richard SAGALA , Paolo LOPES
École In Vino Veritas, Montreal, CA & Kedge Business School, Bordeaux, FR
Contributions of Experimentation in the Study of Reception in Communication Science: The Case of Wine Labels (EN)
Apports de l’expérimentation dans l’étude de la réception en SIC :
le cas des étiquettes de vin (FR)

Mihaela BONESCU , Diana BRATU, Emilie GINON, Angela SUTAN
ESC Dijon Bourgogne, FR
Controlling for Price Endogeneity: A Case Study on Chinese Wine Preferences 
David PALMA , Juan de Dios ORTÚZAR, Gerard CASAUBON, Huiqin MA
Pontificia Univ. Católica de Chile, CL & China Agricultural Univ., CN
Young Urban Adults’ Preference for Wine Information Sources:
An Exploratory Study for Republic of Macedonia
 

Hristo HRISTOV , Aleš KUHAR
Biotechnical Faculty Ljubljana, SI
“In Vino Veritas”—But what, In Truth, Is in the Bottle?
Experience Goods, Fine Wine Ratings, and Wine Knowledge 

Denton MARKS 
Univ. Wisconsin-Whitewater, US
The Need for Information of the Wine Consumer after the Purchase of the Wine (EN) 
Le besoin d’information post achat du consommateur de vin (FR)

Frédéric COURET 
Bordeaux Sciences Agro Univ. de Bordeaux, FR

16:00 – 16:30Coffee break16:30 – 17:30General Assembly VDQS20:00

Friday 6 June, 2014
SESSION 4a

8:30 – 10:30 WINE TOURISM, WINE CONSUMPTION and the HISTORY of WINE
Chaired by

The Douro Region: Wine and Tourism 
João REBELO , Alexandre GUEDES, José CALDAS
Univ. Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro & Turismo do Porto e Norte de Portugal, PT
Traditional Wine Taverns and their Hard Landing in the 21st Century:
The Case of the Viennese Heurigen 

Cornelia CASEAU , Albert STÖCKL and Joëlle BROUARD
Groupe ESC Dijon Bourgogne, FR & Fachhochschule Burgenland, AT
Consumers’ Intentions to Purchase Greek Bottled Wine
Athina DILMPERI , Martin HINGLEY
Lincoln Business School, UK
‘Dry Enough to Wash your Hands in’: The English Taste for Champagne, 1860-1914 
Graham HARDING 
Univ. Cambridge, UK
Liastos Oinos Siatistis: Where the Enthusiastic Present Meets the Glorious Past
Georgios MERKOUROPOULOS , E BATIANIS
Center for Research & Technology – HELLAS, Regional Admin. of Western Macedonia, GR
Seatbelt Use Following Stricter Drunk Driving Regulations 
Scott ADAMS, Chad COTTI , Nathan TEFFT
Univ. Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Connecitcut, & Washington, US
Interest of Italian Consumers for a Sustainable Wine 
Chiara CORBO, Martina MACCONI , Giovanni SOGARI
Univ. Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, IT

 

SESSION 4b

8:30 – 10:30

WINE MARKETING, Selected Aspects
Chaired by

Retail Channel Selection on Wine by Households in Argentina 
Gustavo ROSSINI , Rodrigo GARCÍA ARANCIBIA, Edith DEPETRIS
Universidad Nacional del Litoral, AR
Vinsseaux Traditionel: The Branding of Canadian Sparkling Wine 
Doris MICULAN BRADLEY , Donna LEE ROSEN
George Brown College, CA
The Consumer Trail: Applying best-worst Scaling to Classical Wine Attributes 
Fernando NUNES , Teresa MADUREIRA, José Vidal OLIVEIRA
Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo & Instituto Politécnico de Lisboa, PT
Presentations of Packaging Quality Wines:
Semiotic Analysis of Bottles of the Top 100 Wines from “Wine Spectator”,2008 – 2012 (EN).

Les présentations packaging des vins de qualité: Analyse sémiotique des bouteilles du top 100 du “Wine Spectator” de 2008 à 2012 (FR)

François BOBRIE 
Maison des Sciences de l’Homme et de la Société-Poitiers; Laboratoire CEREGE, FR
Difference of Representation and Choice of Burgundy Red Wines from the Upstream vs Downstream Actors of the Wine Sector 
Monia SAIDI , Georges GIRAUD
UMR CESAER INRA – AgroSup Dijon, FR
Wine Distribution Channel Systems in Mature and Newly Growing Markets:
Germany versus China
 

Tatiana BOUZDINE-CHAMEEVA, Wenxiao ZHANG , Jon H. HANF
KEDGE Business School, FR & Geisenheim Univ., DE
Attitudes Towards M-Wine Purchasing. A Cross-Country Study 
Jean-Eric PELET, Benoît LECAT , Jashim KHAN, Linda W. LEE, Debbie VIGAR-ELLIS, Marianne MC GARRY WOLF, Sharyn RUNDLE-THIELE, Niki KAVOURA, Vicky KATSONI
Univ. Nantes, ESC Dijon, FR; Auckland, NZ; KTH Royal Institute of Technology, SE; Univ. KwaZulu-Natal, ZA; California Polytechnic State Univ., US; Griffith Univ., AU; Technological Educational Institute of Athens, GR

10:30 – 11:00Break “Mâchon” (typical morning snack in Lyon)

SESSION 5a

11:00 – 13:00

BUILDING PERFORMANCE and EFFICIENCY
Chaired by

The Market Structure-Performance Relationship Applied to the Canadian Wine Industry 
J. François OUTREVILLE 
HEC Montréal, CA
Wineries’ Performance, Response to a Crisis Period 
Juan Sebastian CASTILLO-VALERO , Katrin SIMON-ELORZ, Ma Carmen GARCIA-CORTIJO
Universidad de Castilla la Mancha & Universidad Pública de Navarra, ES
Quality Improvements and International Positioning of Chilean and Argentine Wines 
Fulvia FARINELLI 
UNCTAD, CH
Winegrower or Winemaker? Influence on Business Efficiency in Burgundy 
Georges GIRAUD 
AgroSup Dijon, FR
Institutional Drives of the Success of the New Wine World. Factors Influencing Technical Efficiency of Wine Production and its Relation with Wine Exports Growth 
József TÓTH , Péter GÁL
Univ. Budapest, HU
Creating Jobs from New Investment in the Wine Sector 
Martin PROKEŠ , Pavel TOMŠÍK
Mendel Univ. Brno, CZ
Terroir and Sustainability: The Role of Terroir in Sustainable Wine Standards 
Shana SABBADO FLORES 
Instituto Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, BR

 

SESSION 5b

11:00 – 13:00

WINE CONSUMPTION, Selected Aspects
Chaired by

The Importance of Wine Region and Consumer’s Involvement Level in the Decision Making Process 
Teresa MADUREIRA , Fernando NUNES
Instituto Politécnico de Viana do Castelo, ES
We Should Drink no Wine before its Time 
Leo SIMON , Jeffrey LAFRANCE, Rachael GOODHUE
Univ. California at Berkeley, US; Monash Univ., Victoria, AU & Univ.C. Davis, US
An Analysis of Alcohol Demands in Japan 
Makiko OMURA 
Meiji Gakuin Univ. Tokyo, JP
The Effect of Wine Culture on the Relationship between Price, Consumption and Alcohol-Related Problems 
Damiana RIGAMONTI , Frédéric LAURIN
Aarhus Univ., DK & Univ. Quebec, CA
Segmenting Greek Wine Consumers Using the Best-Worst Scaling Approach: New Results and Comparison across 11 Countries 
Dimitrios ASTERIOU , Costas SIRIOPOULOS
Hellenic Open Univ. & ; Univ. Patras, GR
Wine and Women: A Focus on Feminine Consumption of Wine 
Stefania CHIRONI , Marzia INGRASSIA
Univ. Palermo, Department of Agricultural and Forestry Science, IT
A Comparative Study of Demand for Local and Foreign Wines in Bulgaria 
Petyo BOSHNAKOV , Georgi MARINOV
Univ. Economics Varna, BG

13:00Awards of VDQS13:30 – 14:30Cocktail with snacks14:30

 Saturday June 7, 2014 – Tourism around Lyons

American Association of Wine Economists Conference Program

As I noted last week, the American Association of Wine Economists are meeting in Walla Walla in a few days. I thought you might be interested in the full program, including papers, authors, activities and so on. Lots of interesting wine economics topics and ideas. Enjoy

JUNE 23, 2014 Whitman College, Maxey Hall

8:00 – 9:00

REGISTRATION, Maxey Auditorium Foyer

 

 9:00 – 10:30 Room – Maxey Auditorium  Session #1A: Consumers & Markets
Chair: XXX
Richard Belzer (Regulatory Checkbook) Leveraging consumer ignorance and information search costs to maximize profits in US wine ‘Flash sales’: a follow up
Linda L. Lowry, Robin Back (both University of Massachusetts, Amherst) Impact of farm winery legislation S 2582: an act relative to economic development reorganization on Massachusetts wineries
Marc Dressler (University Ludwigshafen, Germany) Exploring success factors in export management – Results of a survey on relevance in the context of the wine business and performance of German producers
Olivier Gergaud (KEDGE Business School, Bordeaux, France), Philippe Masset (Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland) Using information about web searches to forecast auction prices of fine wines

 

 9:00 – 10:30Room – Maxey 207  Session #1B: Tourism and Economic Impact
Chair: Luigi Galletto (University of Padova, Italy)
Christopher Lucha, Gustavo Ferreira, Martha Walker (all Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg) Virginia wine tourism: a profitability analysis
Luca Rossetto, Luigi Galletto (both University of Padova, Italy) Wine tourist profiles: a comparison between two wine routes in Veneto region
Theodore Lane (Western Regional Science Association), Bill Mundy (Bill Mundy Associates) Walla Walla’s wine-based agro-industrial cluster
Martin Prokes, Kamil Prokes (both Mendel University Brno, Czech Republic) Job creation by investing in the wine sector

 

10:30 – 11:00 Coffee Break
Maxey Auditorium Foyer

 

 11:00 – 12:30Room – Maxey Auditorium  Session #2A: Coffee & FoodChair: Morten Scholer (International Trade Centre, Geneva, Switzerland)
Morten Scholer (International Trade Centre, Geneva, Switzerland) Coffee: the product, the trade and comparison with wine
Samrawit Ebabe (Jimma University, Ethiopia) Constraints to Ethiopian coffee exports from a supply chain management perspective
Peter Roberts (Emory University) Product differentiation, pricing and fair trading in specialty coffee markets
Albert I. Ugochukwu University of Saskatchewan, Jill E. Hobbs. University of Saskatchewan Food product authenticity in agri-food markets: implications for collective reputation
Bernd Frick (University of Paderborn, Germany), Olivier Gergaud (KEDGE Business School, Bordeaux, France), Laure Salais (Institut Paul Bocuse, France) The demand for restaurants in Europe

 

 11:00 – 12:30Room – Maxey 207  Session #2B: Trade and International I
Chair: XXX
Alejandro Gennari, Jimena Estrella. Xavier Brevet (both National University of Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina) Argentinean wineries’ strategies on export markets
Miguel A. Fierro, Rodrigo Romo Muñoz (both Universidad del Bío-Bío, Chile) Characterization of the Chilean bottled wine market
Cynthia Howson (University of Washington Tacoma), Pierre Ly (University of Puget Sound), Jeff Begun (University of Washington Tacoma) Grape procurement, land rights and industrial upgrading in the Chinese wine industry
Maryline Filippi (University of Bordeaux, France) Elena Garnevka (Massey University, New Zealand) Exporting wine to China from New Zealand and from France. Strategies and perspectives
 11:00 – 12:30Room – Maxey 307  Session #2C: U.S. Wine Market & Industry
Chair: XXX
Raphael Schirmer (University of Bordeaux, France) Drinking wine in the United States of America (from 1850 to the present) through the New York Public Library’s collection “What’s on the menu?”
Jon H. Hanf (Geisenheim University, Germany) Retail branding and its consequences on wine brands
Bradley Rickard (Cornell University), Olivier Gergaud (KEDGE Business School, Bordeaux, France), Hu Wenjing (Cornell University) Trade liberalization in the presence of domestic regulations: likely impacts of the TTIP on wine markets
Robert Hodgson (Fieldbrook Winery) The unimportance of terroir

 

12:30 – 14:00 Lunch Break

 

 14:00 – 15.15Room – Maxey Auditorium

 

PLENARY SESSION:
Welcome and Introduction
 Orley Ashenfelter (Princeton University)    Welcome and Introduction
     
Kevin Pogue (Whitman College)   The Terroirs of the Walla Walla Valley American Viticultural Area
15:15 – 15:45 Coffee Break
Maxey Auditorium Foyer
 15:45 – 18:00Room – Maxey Auditorium  Session #3A: Varietals, Geography, Environment
Chair: Julian Alston (UC Davis)
Kate Fuller, Julian Alston, Olena S. Sambucci. (all UC Davis) The value of powdery mildew resistance in grapes: evidence from California
Julian Alston (UC Davis), Kym Anderson (University of Adelaide) Evolving varietal distinctiveness of US wine regions: comparative evidence from a new global database
Christopher Bitter (University of Washington, Seattle) The evolving geography of the U.S. wine industry
Luigi Galletto, Federica Bianchin, Luigino Barisan (all University of Padova, Italy), Eugenio Pomarici (University of Naples Federico II, Italy) An evaluation of a new drought-resistant rootstock in Italy
Jean-Philippe Roby (Bordeaux Science Agro, France) Viticulture of varietal wines: the dead end of terroir at the time of global warming? Case study of Burgundy
Karl Storchmann (New York University), Peter Griffin (Vanderbilt University) Climate change and vineyard prices

 

 15:45 – 18:00Room – Maxey 207 Session #3B: Wine Investment
Chair: Lee Sanning (Whitman College)
Marie-Claude Pichery (Université de Bourgogne, France), Catherine Pivot (Université Jean Moulin – Lyon 3, France) Wine investment: a profitable alternative investment or simply a long-term pleasure?
Beysül Aytac, Thi Hong Van, Hoang, Cyrille Mandou (all Sup de Co Montpellier Business School, France) Wine: to drink or to invest? A study of wine as a financial asset in a French portfolio context
Philippe Masset, Jean-Philippe Weisskopf (both Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland) Wine funds – an alternative turning sour?
Philippe Masset, Jean-Philippe Weisskopf (both  Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland) Wine indices in practice: nicely labeled but slightly corked
Jean-Marie Cardebat (Université de Bordeaux, France), Benoît Faye, Eric Le Fur (both INSEEC Bordeaux, France), Philippe Masset (Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland)  Is wine still an investable asset?
Benoît Faye, Eric Le Fur (both INSEEC Bordeaux, France) Dynamics of fine wine and asset prices: evidence from short- and long-run co-movements

 

 15:45 -18:00Room – Maxey 306  Session #3C: Quality and Experts IChair: XXX
Robin Golstein (Fearless Critic Media) Do more expensive things generally taste worse?
Omer Gokcekus, Clare Finnegan (both Seton Hall University) Lumping and splitting in expert ratings’ effect on wine prices
Neal Hulkower (McMinnville, OR) Information lost: the unbearable lightness of vintage charts
Ying Lou, Jing Cao, Lynne Stokes (all Southern Methodist University) Comparing measures of rater agreement for wine quality ratings
Dom Cicchetti (Yale University), Arnie Cicchetti (San Anselmo, CA) Assessing reliability when multiple judges taste a single wine
Eric Stuen, Jon Miller, Robert Stone (all University of Idaho) An analysis of consensus of prominent wine critic ratings in the US market
 19:00 – about 23.00
Conference Dinner
Long Shadows
Buses leave from Whitman College at 18:15  

 

 

JUNE 24, 2014 Maxey Hall

 

 9:00 – 10:30Room –Maxey Auditorium  Session #4A: Water, Whiskey, Wine, Food
Chair: XXX
Kevin W. Capehart (American University, Washington, DC) Fine water: a hedonic pricing approach
Ian B. Page (University of Maryland) The economics of whisky: an analysis of imperfect competition when product quality is endogenous
Kenneth Elzinga. University of Virginia, Carol Tremblay. Oregon State University, Victor Tremblay. Oregon State University Craft beer in the USA: history, scope and geography
Yohannes Yehabe (Molde University College, Norway) Assessment of weather impact on the sales of breweries in Norway: a panel data regression approach
Robert Harrington, Lobat Siahmakoun. (both University of Arkansas) Which wine and food elements drive high and low levels of perceived match?
 9:00 – 10:30Room – Maxey 207

 

Session #4B: Wine Demand
Chair:
XXX
Getnet Yitagesu (Unity University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) A principal component analysis of the demand structure of Wine. The Case of Addis Ababa
Paulina Rytkönen (Södertörn University, Sweden) Wine in a vodka country – changing consumption patterns in Sweden’s way from a rural to an industrial nation
Gary M. Thompson (Cornell University) Wine cellar optimization
Amy Holbrook, Dennis Reynolds (both Washington State University, Pullman) What effect does wine closure type have on perceptions of wine’s appearance, bouquet, Taste, and overall quality? An empirical investigation
Judit Szigeti (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hungary), Szilárd Podruzsik, Orsolya Fehér, Péter Gál (all Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary) Wine affordability for the Hungarian consumers

 

10:30 – 11:00 Coffee Break
Maxey Auditorium Foyer
 9:00 – 10:30Room – Maxey Auditorium

 

Session #5A: Quality & Experts II
Chair: XXX
Adeline Alonso Ugaglia (Bordeaux Science Agro, France), Olivier Gergaud (KEDGE Business School, Bordeaux, France) Restaurant awards and financial rewards: Michelin
Guenter Schamel (Free University of Bolzano, Italy) Points for sale? Examining the market entry of a new wine guide
Orley Ashenfelter (Princeton University), Robin Goldstein (Fearless Critic Media), Craig Riddell (University of British Columbia, Vancouver) Do expert ratings measure quality? The case of restaurant wine lists
Robert Hodgson (Fieldbrook Winery) The fallacy of wine competitions; a ten year retrospective

 

 11:00 – 12:30Room – Maxey 207

 

Session #5B: Marketing
Chair: XXX
Steven Cuellar (Sonoma State University) Measuring the return to social media
Lindsey Higgins, Erica Llanos (both California Polytech, San Luis Obispo) A healthy, but confusing, indulgence? Wine consumers and the health benefits of wine
Benjamin C. Lawrence, Alex M. Susskind, Gary M.  Thompson (all Cornell University) Wine mailing lists
Jon H. Hanf, Oliver Gierig (both Geisenheim University, Germany) Discussion of an Innovative pricing strategy in the context of wine tastings

  

 11:00 – 12:30Room – Maxey 306

 

Session #5C: Industry Organization
Chair: XXX
Paulina Rytkönen (Södertörn University, Sweden) The Swedish wine industry – institutions, knowledge, temperance and regional development in an upcoming wine country
Betsy Carter (Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies, Cologne, Germany) The state versus the market: patterns of producer politics and the construction of status markets
Marc Dressler (University Ludwigshafen, Germany) Organizational levers on reputation and performance – An empirical analysis of German wineries
Florine Livat (KEDGE Business School, Bordeaux, France), Jean-Marie Cardebat. (University of Bordeaux, France) Are there too many appellations in Bordeaux? A renewal of the brand vs. appellation debate
12:30 – 14:00 Lunch Break
 14:00 – 15.30Room – Maxey Auditorium

 

PLENARY SESSION:
Regulation in the U.S. Wine Industry                                 
 Orley Ashenfelter    Princeton University, Princeton
Paul Beveridge   Family Wineries of Washington State, Seattle
John Hinman   Hinman & Carmichael LLP, San Francisco
Allen Shoup   Long Shadows, Walla Walla

 

15:30 – 15:45 Coffee Break
Maxey Auditorium Foyer
 15:45 – 17:15Room – Maxey Auditorium  Session #6A: Supply
Chair: XXX
Nick Vink, Theo Kleynhans, Willem Hoffmann. (Stellenbosch University, South Africa) Financing wine barrels in South Africa: the Vincorp model
Alessandro Muscio, Gianluca Nardone, Antonio Stasi (all Università degli Studi di Foggia, Italy) Perceived technological regimes: an empirical analysis of the wine industry
Lindsey Higgins. Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo Economic stochastic simulation model for small to medium sized wineries
Julien Cadot (ISG Business School, France), Adeline Ugaglia (Bordeaux Sciences Agro, France) The horizon problem in Bordeaux wine cooperatives.

  

 15:45 – 17:15Room – XXX

 

Session #6B: International & Trade II
Chair: XXX
Joachim Ewert (University of Stellenbosch, South Africa), Jon H. Hanf, Erik Schweickert. (Geisenheim University, Germany) South African Cooperatives and the challenge of product quality
Silvia Gatti (University of Bologna, Italy) Designations of origin for wines, labor and cooperatives in Emilia-Romagna between the Censuses of Agriculture 2000 and 2010
Bo Gao, James L. Seale, Zhifeng Gao (all University of Florida) U.S. import demand for wine by country of origin: a differential approach
Leo-Paul Dana (Montpellier Business School, France), Mathieu Labadan (University of Pau, France), Michael Mettrick, Agate Ponder-Sutton. (both University of Canterbury, New Zealand) Interaction among wine makers in New Zealand
17:15 – 17:30 Coffee Break
Maxey Auditorium Foyer

 

 17:30 – 18:00Room – Maxey Auditorium  PLENARY SESSION:
Upshot and Outlook
 Karl Storchmann    New York University, New York

Alejandro Gennari
 
National University of Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina

 

 19:00 – 23:00 
Dinner
Whitehouse Crawford, Walla Walla
JUNE 25, 2014 09:00 – 18:00
Tour of Walla Walla Vineyards and Wineries
Geological Guide: Kevin Pogue, Whitman College
Lunch at Basel Cellars
Buses leave from the Marcus Whitman Hotel at 9am

 

Malbec & Maradona: Wine and History in Argentina

Ian Mount, The Vineyard at the End of the World: Maverick Winemakers and the Rebirth of Malbec. Norton: 2011.

Malbec and Maradona

The most stunningly creative student paper I’ve received in more than 30 years as a college professor was written by a first year student enrolled in my introductory International Political Economy class. We were studying Argentina’s latest financial crisis and she analyzed the situation not just through facts and figures but rather by telling the story of Diego Maradona, the legendary soccer player who achieved great success on the global stage but succumbed to the pressures, stresses and temptations that came with it.

Maradona is always measured against Pele, the Brazilian star who is often proclaimed the greatest soccer player in history, and every talented young Argentinean forward is compared to  him (Messi is only the latest “next Maradona”). But an air of tragedy is unmistakable despite Maradona’s heroic achievements. This same air, my student wrote, hangs over Argentina’s politics and economy, and then she proceeded to analyze Argentina’s political economy history in detail in  terms of the Maradona story. It was, in both conception and execution, a brilliant analysis.

Ian Mount’s new book on Argentinean wine, The Vineyard at the End of the World, is also brilliant and in much the same way. Like my student’s paper, it can be read at several levels. It is, first and foremost, a history of the Argentinean wine industry from its roots with the Spanish explorers to its current spectacular flowering.

Although Argentina has been a major wine producer for literally centuries, it has only arrived on the global stage in the last ten years. Within Argentina its long history is heavy baggage that sometimes weighs it down. For the rest of the world, however, Argentina is a new discovery and the lack of prior experience of and attitudes toward its wines has arguably been an advantage.

Mount fills us in on the history and serious readers will appreciate the added depth this gives to the appreciation of the wines themselves. It also provides an interesting contrast to neighboring Chile and its wines, whose history is perhaps better known. But that’s only the beginning.

 Lucky Survivors

Malbec is a second theme, which is understandable because Malbec is king in Argentina right now. Malbec from Argentina has been one of the hottest product categories in the U.S. wine market is the past few years. But today’s Malbec (like Maradona) is a lucky survivor of Argentina’s booms and busts – a lot of Malbec was grubbed up during the market swings and swirls. It makes me appreciate wines (like one of our favorites, Mendel Malbec) that are made from the surviving old vine blocks.

More than anything, however, this is a history of Argentina itself told through wine, making this a book that deserves a very broad readership. Based on my previous research, I knew that Argentina’s politics and economics were reflected in the wine industry, but I didn’t know how much. Come for the Malbec, stay for the politics, economics and personal stories of those who succeeded or failed (or did both) and try to understand the country and people of Argentina.

Significantly, the book ends with a sort of Maradona moment. In terms of wine, Argentina has won the World Cup with Malbec, although the country must share the glory with international consultants (like Paul Hobbs and Michel Rolland) and foreign investors and partners (too numerous to mention). But for all its strengths the industry is still somewhat fragile, struggling to overcome the problems of the domestic wine market that it still depends upon and the domestic economy in which it is embedded.

After decades of “crisis and glory,” Mount sees a  bright future for both Malbec and Argentina. Let’s hope he’s right and the Maradona moment passes.

Ian Mount’s new book is a valuable addition to any wine enthusiast’s library. Mount provides a strong sense of the land and people of Argentina and the flow of history that connects them. Argentina is unique, as Mount notes early on, in that it is an Old World wine country (in terms of the nature of its wine culture) set in the New World, so that its history is broadly relevant and deeply interesting.

I studied the Argentina industry before going there last year, but Mount taught me things I didn’t know in every chapter. I love Laura Catena’s Vino Argentino for its account of the history of wine in Argentina told through the Catena family story and now I’m glad to also have The Vineyard at the End of the World for its broad sweep and detailed analysis. They are must reading for anyone with an interest in Argentina and its wines.

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Another Malbec-Maradona connection: Diego Maradona is most famous for a play that has gone down in soccer history as “the Hand of God” goal.  It was in a 1986 World Cup quarterfinal match that Maradona illegally struck the ball with his hand and scored the winning goal – an offense that was clearly visible to everyone in the stadium except the officials. Must have been the Hand of God, not Maradona, I guess.

Now (or very soon depending upon the release date) there is  Hand of God wine. We tasted Hand of God from the barrel when we were in Mendoza earlier in the year and we enjoyed the wine even if Maradona had nothing to do with making it. I suppose the name honors the importance of wine and soccer to Argentinean society and the struggles that both have endured. (Maradona’s team beat England in that famous game, so I wouldn’t look for big Hand of God wine sales in the U.K. market. Just saying …)

Special thanks to Jon Staenberg (proprietor of  Hand of God) and Santiago Achaval for letting us sample this wine!

Argentinean Wine: Striking a Balance

Old and New at Mendel Wines

Balance is the key to great wine (and profitable wine business, too). I was reminded of this truth many times during our visit to Mendoza, where wine makers are trying to chart a course between and among several extremes:

  • Competitive export sales versus the challenging domestic market;
  • Reliable value wine sales versus potentially more profitable premium products;
  • Popular and successful Malbec versus TNGT — The (speculative and uncertain) Next Big Thing.

The key to long term success involves finding the right balance in this complex economic environment.

Thinking Global: Anabelle Sielecki

I want to use this post to consider three types of balance that I think are particularly interesting in Mendoza – the balance between crisis and opportunity,  local and international winemaking influences and the simple tension between the old and the new.  We learned about all three dimensions during our brief visit to Mendel Wines in Lujan de Cuyo.

Crisis and Opportunity

Mendel is both very old and quite new.  The vineyards are old, planted in 1928. Somehow these Malbec vines survived the ups and downs of the Argentinean economy. The winery is almost as old and has a certain decaying charm. It stands in stark contrast to Salentein, O. Fournier, the Catena Zapata pyramid and the many other starkly modernist structures that have sprung up in this part of the world.

The winery project is quite new. Mendel is a partnership between Anabelle Sielecki and Roberto de la Mota and is the result of a balance between crisis and opportunity. When economic crisis struck Argentina ten years ago, opportunities were created for those with vision and entrepreneurial spirit. Anabelle and Roberto seized the moment and purchased these old vines and well-worn structures for their new super premium winery project.

That their impulse was timely and wise may not have been obvious at the time (crises are like that), but it is perfectly clear now. Wine Advocate named Mendel one of nine “Best of the Best” Argentinean wineries in a recent issue.[1]

Old and New

The winemaking that goes on in Mendel is also a combination of old and new. The technology is modern, of course, with stainless steel and French oak very visible. The setting, however, constantly reminds you of the past and the vineyard’s and winery’s history. Walking through the winery, for example, I was struck by the big concrete (or were they adobe?) fermenting tanks – a blast from the past for sure.

No, we don’t use them to ferment the wines anymore, Cecilia Albino told us, but we put them to good use. Peek inside. Sure enough, the tanks were filled with oak barrels full of wine aging quietly in the cool environment.

[Interestingly, I saw concrete tanks again during our visit to Achaval Ferrer.  Roberto Cipresso, the winemaker there, built the tanks because he uses them at his winery in Montalcino.]

Mendel also illustrates the balance between local and global that characterizes wine in Argentina, where much of the capital and many of the winemakers come from abroad.  Roberto de la Mota, partner and chief winemaker at Mendel, personifies this balance. Roberto is the son of  Raúl de la Mota, who is sometimes said to be Argentina’s “winemaker of the century” so important was his work in developing quality wine in this country.

Roberto naturally grew up in the wine business both here and in France, where he sought advanced training on the advice of Emile Peynaud. He was the winemaker at Terrazas, Chandon’s still wine project in Mendoza, and then at Cheval des Andes, a winery with connections to Château Cheval Blanc. I think it is fair to say that Roberto’s resume represents a balance between local and global, between deep understanding of Mendoza terroir and knowledge that perhaps only international influences can provide.

Acting Local: Roberto de la Mota

Local and Global

I asked Roberto if it was important that Mendel is an Argentinean project and not owned by a foreign multinational. Yes of course, he said, but he hesitated a bit and I think I see why. Many of the influences and markets are international, but people, vines and inspiration are  purely local. Not one or another, but intertwined, balanced.

And this thirst for a complex balance defines the future. Talking with Anabelle over coffee in Buenos Aires, she was ambitious to break into new markets – Hong Kong, China, and so forth. Anabelle is an architect — another field where global and local intersect.  She is married to Héctor Timmerman, Argentina’s Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to the United States, so her international interest comes naturally.

Meeting with Roberto at the winery in Mendoza, he was interested in learning even more about his vines and terroir so as to better develop their potential. And to bring more of the classic Bordeaux grape varieties (like Petit Verdot) into the mix.

Mendel has charted its balanced course quickly, purposefully and well.  It is a perfect illustration of both the tensions that define wine in Argentina and the potential for success if a clear but balanced path is boldly taken.


[1] The other “Best of the Best” wineries in Wine Advocate issue 192 are Achaval Ferrer, Alta Vista, Catena Zapata, Viña Cobos, Colomé Reserva, Luca, Tikal and Yacochuya.

Malbec World Day 2011

The first Malbec World Day is Sunday, April 17, 2011 and we are gearing up for it here at The Wine Economist. Plans include juicy steak and fresh asparagus along with a bottle of Malbec from Argentina.

But which one? We tasted many wonderful wines during our recent trip to Argentina and each one provokes a memory. Difficult to choose.  I went down into the cellar and grabbed a handful of likely suspects and asked Sue to make the choice.

Remembering the Alamos

Wine is good, but wine and a story (if it is the right story) is much better. That’s one reason people spend time and money on wine tourism — to get the story behind the wines and meet the people involved in their creation. In the end, Sue’s selection for Malbec World Day was all about the story.

The Alamos Selection Malbec (far right in the photo) reminds us of a dinner in Buenos Aires with our friends Scott and Janice. The parrilla’s gruff waiter grew impatient with our attempts to navigate his menu, so he just threw it away and got us to tell him what we wanted. Then he sorta threw that away too and, inspired by what the grill master did best, covered the table family-style with just what we would have ordered in the first place if we only knew how to do it. He recommended the Alamos and we went with that and were not disappointed.

OK, so maybe he was not so grumpy after all.

The Alamos story is wonderful to remember, but is it our celebration wine? No. Not because of the wine, but because of the story, which is more about our grumpy but lovable waiter and the delicious experience he provided and not quite enough about Malbec wine.

Catena Zapata?

Next up is the Catena Malbec. It conjures up the memory of our visit to Bodega Catena Zapata, which Laura Catena was kind enough to arrange for us. It was a memorable experience that included tastings of both the Luca and Catena Zapata wines with their respective winemakers. The Malbecs and other wines we tasted that day were among the very best we had in Mendoza (or probably ever will have anywhere).

So is the Catena the choice? No, but only because we might rather have a Luca wine, since that is Laura Catena’s personal winery and we owe her so much for helping us with our visit. The only Luca wine in the cellar right now is the Beso de Dante, which is a Malbec blend. As good as it is, perhaps we need a pure Malbec to celebrate its world day.

Maybe Mendel?

The Mendel Malbec is a different story. Sue was originally drawn to this winery because there are Mendels in the family and she thought we might be related. No family connection, alas, but our visits with owners Anabelle Sielecki (in Buenos Aires) and Roberto de la Mota (in Mendoza) were very warm and helpful. We learned so much through them about both Mendel wines and also the economics, politics, wine and people of Argentina.

So it this Sue’s choice? No, she said. The wine is great and the meetings unforgettable, but the story is too personal for an “official” holiday like Malbec World Day. Save the Mendel for birthdays and anniversaries. Hard to argue with that sentiment.

So that leaves the Achaval-Ferrer as Sue’s Malbec Day choice — but not by default. The story of our visit to this winery is, more than any of the others, about the wine itself and so the perfect choice for this celebration.

An Intense Experience

The tasting begins: Sue took this photo of Julian, Mike, Scott & Janice at Achaval-Ferrer.

Santiago Achaval was called away to the U.S. for a marketing meeting (something we obviously understand here at The Wine Economist), so his assistant Julian organized a special tasting for us where we sampled each of their Malbec wines from both barrel and bottle and then tasted each of the component wines of the Quimera blend alongside the finished wine. Visitors stared at us in wonder as the table filled with bottles and glasses.

As a special treat, Santiago had arranged for us to taste barrel samples of the Hand of God wine that he is making in partnership with Jon Staenberg (who kindly introduced me to Santiago for the purpose of this visit). This made the visit all the more memorable.

I cannot imagine a more intense examination of Argentinean Malbec terroir, which makes the Achaval-Ferrer our perfect wine for this year’s Malbec World Day celebration!

:)