Diversity, quality, value for money and the support of an effective generic campaign are slowly but surely paying dividends for Argentina in the off-trade. The country's market share has risen modestly to 1.4% and sales by value have grown by 10.9% according to Nielsen research for the year to May 17 - bolstered by rosé and white wines as well as red.
Argentina still needs wider listings across the off-trade at both the mainstream brand level and for higher premium offerings, and the
wines are there for buyers .
A stronger image and greater understanding of the country's wine offer among consumers could also see this vibrant country move up a gear, as two retailers who have made a success of the category testify.
Ben and Georgie Furst
The Sussex Wine Company
Ben Furst of The Sussex Wine Company, an independent retailer in Lewes and online merchant, is enthusiastic and convincing about Argentina in equally generous measures. Argentina is one of the four core countries for
his business with 25 listings, while the other three - Australia, France and Italy - have 26, 28 and 36 listings respectively.
In Furst's view Argentina has plenty going for it. He says: "The quality, value for money and the prospect of fine wines is matching and surpassing anything achievable in Australia ... the £5-£40 range is far more interesting than Australia."
He adds: "Australian reds tend to go up in alcohol and down in complexity. Argentina's wines are not so high in alcohol and the fruit is more layered and interesting."
The wines, 20 red and four white, are priced mostly between £7.95 and £15 and this is the main area of business. The selection features a mixture of larger and smaller producers including Santa Ana, Susana Balbo and Colomé. Furst says
higher priced wines such as Eral Bravo's YBS at £27.95 do sell, and the highest priced wine on the list currently is Benegas Lynch Meritage at £34.95.
A combination of price promotions, sampling and special events linking wine to food is getting customers to fall for the Argentinian range. The Sussex Wine Company has links with the Eastbourne Wine & Food School and Argentina also features prominently in its corporate and private wine tastings.
Furst adds: "We sample wines in the shop every weekend and once a month we feature Argentina
- more than any other country. When people buy after tasting it's generally in the £5.95-£12 range.
"We've doubled the space for Argentina from two rows to four in the past six months. Our customers are wine lovers who can be led, and our enthusiasm
has encouraged people towards the country. Customers are exposed to South America via Chile and they jump over to Argentina easily," concludes Furst.
Julie Buckley is satisfied with Argentina's performance at Oddbins and excited by its potential after 18 months overseeing the country. She visited Argentina for the first time in November 200 7.
"Argentina's producers are flexible and open, and the wines offer something fresh and new to the consumer. Argentina is one of the most exciting ranges
I work on," she says.
In the second quarter of 2008 sales for the Argentinian category were up by 80% at Oddbins, and its share at Oddbins is now around 1.7%, compared
with less than 1% in 2007,
Buckley currently has 17 listings for Argentina with prices ranging from £4.24 for Los Primos Barbera (the only wine below £5) to £11.99 for Clos de los Siete and Doña Paula Cabernet Franc.
"I try to make sure
there is a strong offering at entry level and a reasonable range of whites. Malbec dominates the reds, but I look for interesting blends and I tend to take other varietals after taking a Malbec [from the same producer] initially," she says.
Buckley is keen for Torrontés to feature in the range, both on its own and as a blend. The Zuccardi Pinot Grigio/Torrontés is "very successful" and an easier proposition for consumers to understand, she says. Another Torrontés - Lavaque's Conejo Costas, a parcel wine with a starting price of £5.39 - is due to be added to the range, along with Doña Paula's Viognier (£9.99).
For the reds, Buckley hopes to add more regions and grape varieties to keep the range refreshed. With this aim in mind, the Poderosa red blend (£10.99) from Bodegas Fin del Mundo in Patagonia will be added to the range soon. New additions are often made available for customers to sample in Oddbins shops and they regularly have a special offer price to attract interest as well.
Don't let it be misunderstood
As Wines from Agentina's generic campaign enters its third year, OLN asks: should it put more emphasis on consumers?
James Griswood, product development manager, Tesco:
"Absolutely. Any support that focuses on bringing Argentina and its wine into the consumer's focus is good news. There are some specific, unique selling points that Argentina can get behind, such as Malbec and Torrontés. If we can talk about these varieties in a simple yet non-patronising way, and explain to the customers why they may want to try these varieties, then this can only help to build loyalty for Argentinian wines. My only caveat would be that this shouldn't be at the expense of support to the trade. Argentina is still a very small category and a continued push to increase the sales of Argentinian wines from within the trade is just as important."
Julie Buckley, wine buyer, Oddbins:
"Yes. We've seen an increase in sales and I think
this is largely due to a greater understanding of Argentinian wines thanks to Wines of Argentina's presence at events such as Taste of London and The Wine Show. The great problem is that Argentina is so misunderstood. Argentina has unique varieties, but the consumer doesn't understand them as well as international varieties."
Robert Boutflower, private sales director, Tanners Wines:
"Yes. Argentina offers good quality, innovation, there are fabulous new wines coming out and the prices are OK. Our customers are European lov ers who are prepared to get on board with Argentinian Malbec, but it's tricky to go beyond that. We sell a lot through tastings and people will come back for more with effort. We also know that Argentinian wine is good with meat."