Malbec World Day celebrates its fifth anniversary this year as the premier event for promoting wines from Argentina, this time with a cinematic theme. The MWD website
has information on celebrations around the world, from Asuncion to Yerevan. And that makes sense – malbec is a grape with global appeal that can fit into almost any market. But will it be able to conquer emerging economies as well?
There aren’t too many wines that can offer quality, in high volume, at prices from $5 to $50 a bottle. The key for malbec exporters is to build a ladder of wines that consumers can climb along with their incomes. MWD events will take place in wealthy cities like Houston and Perth, but also in poorer ones like Hanoi and Phnom Penh. To be sure, there are expatriate communities in the latter who can afford wines of all prices. But the rising incomes of emerging economies offer an opportunity for malbec to get in on the ground floor.
The incursion into Southeast Asia is particularly apt, since this is where vehicle makers have used the same approach. In the 1990s, Honda started exporting its basic scooters to Vietnam, after the country finally left its wartorn past behind and began opening to the global economy. Within a few years, the scooters were ubiquitous. And then, as living standards began to climb, Honda was able to export higher-value products: fancier scooters, motorcycles, and eventually cars.
This is the challenge for Argentine exporters: to become the preferred product and trusted brand in new markets. Chile succeeded similarly when consumers in rich countries began looking for budget wines of reasonable quality; this time, Argentina has a chance to beat Chile to the punch. It will help that Argentine wines are already favored in the wealthier countries along the Pacific Rim; they appear on wine lists in restaurants, hotels, and airline flights, and the supermarket selection is surprisingly broad, even encompassing wines from outside Mendoza. The French connection has also been an asset, with French producers in Argentina such as Lurton taking advantage of longstanding commercial connections in the region.
In the near term, Argentina is sending the right message by staging MWD celebrations in rich and poor countries alike: malbec is affordable, approachable, and rapidly going global. Argentina itself is also a mix of rich and poor, but usually affordable and always approachable. But on MWD, you don’t have to go there – wherever you are, malbec comes to you. Salud!
Back to Argovino