The Argento Wine Company is opening offices in London and Mendoza this month to support the brand that is leading Argentina out of entry-level anonymity, says Robyn Lewis
At some point in 1998 we turned to each other and said, ‘What Argentina needs is to create something that makes an argument for the country at the top end of the entry level’,” says Simon Farr of Bibendum, recalling a conversation he once had with Nicholas Catena, the Argentinian winery owner. “And that conversation,” he admits, “was the genesis of the Argento wine brand.”
Today the brand sells some 330,000 9L cases worldwide, half of which are sold in the UK alone. Such has been the success of the wine that this month sees the creation of the Argento Wine Company, with offices both in London and Mendoza, which will look after the brand from now on. The investment in the new company (around £3m) demonstrates the confidence that brand partners Bibendum and Catena have both in the brand and in a category that many think has thus far failed to live up to its potential.
“What we are trying to do by setting up the company is to get much more aggressively engaged in the whole process of trying to carve out a niche for Argentina in the broader marketplace and we see that as a bit of an adventure,” says Farr. “What was happening when we created the brand was that most Argentinian wine here was £2.99 or less and was brought into the UK by the supermarkets as an alternative to Bulgaria or whatever else was cheap. There was no image, no interest and the wine was pretty basic, as you can imagine, and that is no way to build a market. So I said, ‘Well, let’s try and create something that is a product but also is a kind of argument for the country and why there’s a point of difference, why it is actually going to contribute to choice rather than just being another label in 700-odd already on the shelves’.”
Interestingly, the partners did not choose to spend platinum pots full of gold on consumer research, preferring instead to go more with their own instincts and sector knowledge. What the team kept asking themselves, according to Farr, was “How do we articulate the difference that is Argentina?” It was felt that none of the imagery should be overly vinous because of the target market, and the clichéd gauchos and tango dancers were avoided too. “We tried to be as simple and iconic as possible with everything. So we picked the ‘A’ motif from a gaucho’s belt and overlaid it onto a very simple oblong white label, very conventional, with simple typography. We chose a tall Italian-shaped bottle and it deliberately looks quite elegant and quite serious. Its plain black, white and burnished silver really stand out among the reds and ochres of the rest of South America,” he explains.
Last year there was an advertising campaign launched to support the brand, with the strapline The Real Argentina, a campaign that is likely to be rejuvenated in some form this year as well. “We are really looking at everything at the moment from viral marketing through to the more conventional stuff but we think there really is something in this campaign,” says Farr. “What we did was to get a photographer to go to all these weird corners of Argentina and film all these people. I think what we are trying to do is to portray a place that is very different and intriguing. I do feel very strongly that now there really aren’t that many new places in the world left to explore and for many people it is very interesting, so we try and create some connection between our lives and theirs, as it were.”
Argento is now sold in 32 markets worldwide and is, according to Farr, “very much a leading brand of Argentina within those markets. Furthermore,” he adds, “to date there’s been no one who’s really had a run at doing the stand-alone concept brand approach from Argentina – like a Jacob’s Creek or a Nottage Hill. With most of the competition the producers project themselves and their heritage and with quite a spectrum of different products, whereas Argento has always tried to really articulate that upper bit of the entry level and very much address that market without any pretensions to be a highly sophisticated fine wine.”