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Source: Miami Herald

Sorry, Evita. If there's any crying going on in Argentina these days, it's likely to be in the vineyards. And they're tears of joy. Sales of Argentine wine continue to build strongly in the United States, according to The Nielsen Co., increasing 29 percent in the past year.

Why Argentina? Why now?

``Best value, best quality, best-looking women, although the last one is just a fringe benefit,'' quips Steve Weinberg of World Wine and Spirits, a Fort Lauderdale wine brokerage.

Weinberg recently was in Argentina, where he tasted wine from more than 25 wineries.

``The majority of the winemakers are young, under 35,'' he said. ``Several are expatriated Americans, and at least three were women.''

One of these ex-pats is Jeff Mausbach, former wine education director at Bodega Catena Zapata, who is launching a line called Manos Negras.

Mausbach said via e-mail that two factors make Argentine wine special: climate and value.

``Argentina has a very diverse collection of wine-growing regions, from Patagonia in the south to Salta in the north, spreading some 1,800 miles along the Andean corridor,'' he noted.

``Despite these huge swings in latitude, there is one constant: a unique combination of sunny, dry desert conditions with very cool day and night temperatures. If you think about it, this is a very unique character. Most sunny places are hot and most cool places don't have a lot of sunshine. I like to call this concept `refrigerated sunshine.' ''

As for value, the cost of winemaking is low.

``As responsible Argentine producers have learned to plow this advantage back into the price-to-quality relationship in their wines, they have increasingly won over U.S. consumers,'' he said.

Whatever you're grilling, a red from Argentina will have the fruit, the fragrance, the attitude to handle them.

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