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Joel Castany - President of Cordier Mestrezat and the Leucate village wine cooperative

“Argentina needs to develop its domestic market”

June 25, 2010 by Mariano Zalazar | in News, Opinions

The French businessman Joel Castany spent a few days in Mendoza to present the Jornada Anual Vitivinícola (Annual Seminar on Winemaking), which took place at the Park Hyatt Hotel, Mendoza. He offered his view on Argentina and the world from the European standpoint.

During his visit, Castany, head of the Leucate village wine cooperative in France and president of Cordier Mestrezat (Bordeaux), a company devoted to the commercialization of Grand Crus, gave an overview of the current situation in his country and spoke about cooperativism as a strategy for success in the wine business. The French wine expert also talked to Winesur and highlighted the importance of the Argentinian wine industry.

What is the current status of the French winemaking business?

France is undergoing a difficult situation, like the rest of Europe. Consumption and prices are falling, exports are not reaching the expected levels and we’re beginning to receive imports. What I think was a misguided vineyard uprooting program imposed by the European Commission a few years ago is seriously affecting the industry today. Besides, tastes are changing and this complicates things even more.

What comparison can be made between Mendoza and France?

First of all, Mendoza is exporting more and more and is not receiving imports. Moreover, actions are being taken to explore the domestic market. Prices are higher than in France in general, and good practices are being implemented in the sector. This is my seventh visit to Mendoza and I see winegrowers are planning carefully and taking action. In France, on the other hand, we’re lagging behind. We’re still working under pretty outdated principles.

What are Argentina’s strengths as a wine producing country?

Argentina has historical legitimacy. However, I consider its major strength lies in its ability to produce unique varieties like Malbec, Bonarda and Torrontés, which no other country can produce with such great quality. Environmental conditions are very favorable in Mendoza: there is little rain, low temperatures at night, irrigation water, and other conditions that are ideal for wine production.

What is Argentina’s image abroad?

Argentina has a really good image. From abroad we see vastness, nature, a healthy environment, tango, the Pumas, Messi, good beef, Aconcagua, Patagonia, Ushuaia and very dynamic people. This is very positive.

Why do you emphasize the importance of joint effort in the wine business?

We [in France] are very much dispersed right now. We have many wineries and agents without much sway on the international scene and with divided interests at a time of global crisis.

The strategic plan of the COVIAR (the Argentinian Wine Corporation) is clearly the result of having reached a very positive consensus. We have nothing of the kind in France. Each province works on its own and there are no joint actions. Collective strength is essential in the international market.

What are the key items in the negotiations between the European Union and Argentina?

Several important issues need to be negotiated between the two markets. It is fundamental that we work on the restrictions the European continent imposes on South American countries in general, although Argentina does not import so much to Europe. It ranks 32nd in importance as a supplier to Europe. However, I believe this is going to improve and communications and trade will develop. On May 17th 2010, an agreement was signed in Madrid that may represent a valuable contribution in this respect.

Should Argentina and Chile work in collaboration?

I think they are very different countries. Their wine industries and ideas are different. Chile has practically no domestic consumption, whereas Argentina is strong in this aspect and has a lot of potential. In addition to this, their international image, investment schemes, labor union systems and social structures are not the same. I don’t think it would be a good idea for the two countries to work together. Argentina’s Patagonia and Mendoza are very strong. Chile does not have that power.

What varietals should Argentina produce to make a big impact on Europe?

Definitely Torrontés, Bonarda and Malbec. We already have Chardonnay, Merlot and other varietals. I’ve tasted these varietals in my latest trips to Argentina and I’ve found some of them are truly exceptional. The fruit, the good vineyard techniques, the good wineries and the good winemakers: they all come together to make great wine. It is the work and the principles behind the wine which can make it excel.

What aspects should Argentina strengthen?

Argentina has quality, but some wineries are probably still a little behind in terms of technology. I think the best Argentina can do is develop its domestic market. That is the key to gain a better position in the international arena as well.

Translation: Inglés del Vino

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