Six to watch in 2009

12 December, 2008

It can be difficult to keep pace with the amount of innovation in Argentine wine. Our panel has sifted through the year's brand activity and selected six launches they reckon have the potential to create even more excitement next year

? Feco vita Buenos Aires

Feco vita is a grouping of 32 co-operatives which accounts for more than 20% of the domestic wine market in Argentina but has not been strong in exports until recently.

Gerard Barnes, product development manager at UK agent Raisin Social,

says Feco vita's Tipas brand has worked well in the convenience sector; a

sister brand, Silver Valley, was developed for Morrisons. Buenos Aires is a brand name which has been known in Argentina since the 1920s and seemed to be ideal for a UK launch, with the benefit of Raisin Social's expert advice on the UK market.

Tesco has taken a Shiraz/Malbec red and Chenin/Torrontés white, while Asda is listing a Bonarda/Malbec and Chardonnay/Chenin blend. "The wines fall into the clichéd marketing-speak of over-delivering for the price," says Barnes.

The wines have been used in three-for-£10 deals and are impressive thanks to the old vine fruit and

simplicity of the winemaking, which does not involve oak.

? Finca Flichman

Extra Brut

Sparkling wines from Argentina are still something of a rarity on the UK market, but Stevens Garnier is hoping to put that right with the launch of

this new wine.

Brand manager Tracey Smith says

this is the first sparkling wine from Finca Flichman. A blend of 80% Chardonnay and 20% Malbec, it is produced

using

the

charmat method and

retails at

around £8.99.

"Sparkling wine is still a growth category in the UK and internationally," says Smith. "The Argentin ians are seeing Chile beginning to introduce it and thinking: 'If they can do it, so can we '."

Stevens Garnier showed the wine at the Wines of Argentina tasting and has so far taken a low-key approach to the launch. But Smith says the company is planning an off-trade assault in the new year.

? Artesano de Argento

"Artesano came about in response to European demand for a higher -level premium wine from the Argento stable," explains trade marketing manager

Polly Long.

"We went back to our winery at Bodegas Esmeralda and looked at what we could produce. The objective really was to source from higher altitude, cooler

climate vineyards, particularly focusing on the Uco Valley.

"Argento is the expression of Argentina and with Artesano we're saying we want it to be the epitome of Argentina at a hand-crafted level."

The 2006 vintage saw the creation of a Chardonnay (listed in Majestic) and a red blend, containing 50% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Shiraz. Both have a headline selling price of £8.99.

Long said that while the main Argento brand was targeted at supermarkets, the Artesano tier was aimed

at specialists and independents.

? Camden Park

Camden Park saw some big changes this year. Not only did ownership of the brand transfer from the now-defunct Orbital Wines to Origin, but production switched too - from Australia to Argentina.

It was a powerful indicator of how Argentina's position in the global wine industry has changed - and a massive vote of confidence in the country's ability to produce quality wines at realistic prices.

Camden Park was relaunched as a Pinot Grigio and Bonarda/Shiraz blend, both with r rps of £6.99. The wines are being sourced from Origin's Mendoza vineyards and winery.

Origin chief executive Bernard Fontannaz says he is confident of establishing

"a credible, premium brand from Argentina".

? Dominio del Plata Virtuoso

Virtuoso is late-harvest Malbec from Mendoza produced by Susana Balbo - not something we're used to seeing in the

UK but the wine already has an enthusiastic following in the USA.

The wine was shown at the Argentine tasting in London in the autumn and will be on full release in the UK early in the New Year through Las Bodegas, whose chief executive is Laurie Webster.

"A couple of very important customers for us tasted it and just said 'wow'," he reports.

"Although times are tough, when you know in your heart you've got a good quality product that's something to really cling to.

"It's going to be very successful because it's so exotic and so beautifully packaged ... and it's Susana Balbo.

"I had never tasted anything like it before. I tasted it al fresco in a freezing cold courtyard in the middle of winter in Mendoza - it was beautifully chilled and for some reason it still managed to warm me up."

The 2005 vintage of the wine is packaged in 50cl bottles and has a n rrp of around £30.

? Trivento Dulce Natural

This range of lower-alcohol, naturally sweet wines from the Concha y Toro-owned producer is already popular in Latin and Central America, as well as parts of Europe. It will be launched in the UK early next year having already been showcased at the Wines of Argentina tasting in London, but the wines will be given a new name. "We are working on a new British-friendly brand name," says brand manager Maria Pina. "The main thing is to communicate the product on the packaging. It's very important for people to get it.

"The wine is naturally sweet because the fermentation process is stopped early. We will have a red, which is 100% Malbec, and the white is a blend of Viognier, Torrontés and Chenin Blanc. Both are around 10% alcohol."

Pina said the job now is to educate both retailers and consumers about the appeal of the lower-alcohol wines, which will retail at about £4.99. "It's always really exciting when you have something different," she says, "but it's challenging at the same time."




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