Would you pay more than US$100 for an Argentine Malbec?

Wednesday, 08-Jan-2014
Published by Wine-Searcher.com by 

Catena-Zapata-vineyards-Agrelo-Lujn-de-Cuyo-Mendoza-©Estudio_García&BetancourtYou won’t see Argentina headlining wine auctions yet, but the world’s fifth-largest producer is beginning to make collectible wines. At this stage, buyers are more likely to have romantic reasons for embracing Argentina, though producers hope that wine investors may soon follow them into the market.

“Most of our clients that spend over US$80 a bottle have either visited Argentina and fallen in love with the country or are married to an Argentine,” says Christian Rothhardt, founder of specialist Argentine wine merchant Ruta 40 in London.

Tapping into the tourist trade is an important factor in Argentina itself. The Vines of Mendoza tasting room in the historic city encourages visitors to taste wines from different producers, after which they can ship bottles home and subsequently send orders from the United States.

“The average price of our wines sold [here] is US$45,” says head sommelier Mariana Onofri. “Once they have been here and experienced the great wines, they are confident spending more on Argentine wine in the future.”

That said, many of Argentina’s top wines are bought by affluent locals and wine-loving Brazilians on vacation. Visitors hunting out bargains are sometimes disillusioned to discover that the prices charged at the cellar door are higher than at home. Take, for example, one of Robert Parker’s top five producers in Argentina, Alta Vista. The 2007 vintage of its leading wine, Alto, sells at 600 pesos (US$92) yet is listed on Wine-Searcher at an average price of US$74 excl. tax. It’s not about ripping off tourists, either, as the same higher prices – and more – are charged in local wine stores and restaurants.

So, why are Argentine wines sold more cheaply 5,000 miles away than they are in the place of production? The anomaly arises because of the parlous state of the Argentine peso. At the time of publication, the official rate was 6.5 pesos to the U.S. dollar, while the black market rate was 10.3. It’s the official rate that’s used in exports.

Taking average worldwide prices as a barometer, here are the top 10 on Wine-Searcher’s list of Argentina’s Most Expensive Wines*. To be included, a wine must have been produced over five consecutive vintages and have a minimum of 20 different offers in our search engine.

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