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Source: Fox News Latino

Buenos Aires – Argentine wine exports to the United States topped those from neighboring Chile last year, spokespersons for the National Institute of Viniculture told Efe Tuesday.

Argentina exported $222 million worth of wine to the United States in 2010, compared with $210 million for Chile.

Total foreign sales of Argentine wine exceeded $860 million last year, up 12 percent from 2009, when a poor harvest blamed on bad weather forced Argentina to import Chilean wine to meet domestic demand.

Argentina now ranks fourth, behind Italy, France and Australia, as a supplier of wine to the U.S. market.

"It's good news, but no more than that. The important thing is that, at an adverse moment, Argentina continued growing," the director of the Bodegas de Argentina vintners association, Juan Carlos Pina, told Buenos Aires daily Clarin.

"The recession in the U.S. made people stop consuming European wines" and the search for "other options" led them to Argentina's Malbec variety, vintner Jose Zuccardi said.

While Bodegas de Argentina president Angel Vespa pointed out that Chile's wine exporters were hurt by the rise of the Chilean peso against the dollar.

Wine was proclaimed Argentina's "national beverage" in November, a nod to the importance of an industry that generates $2.63 billion in annual sales and employs around 400,000 people.

Argentina is the world's No. 5 producer of wine, ninth-biggest exporter and ranks seventh globally in consumption, even though Argentines' annual per capita wine intake has fallen from 90 liters to 30 liters over the last 40 years.

More than three-quarters of Argentine wine production is consumed domestically.

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