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Argentina is ‘no one-trick pony’

While it may have built its reputation on Malbec, Argentina is no one-trick pony when it comes to wine, according to one of the country’s top boutique producers.

Dario Werthein, owner of Bodegas Riglos. Photo credit: Colin Hampden-White

Speaking to the drinks business at his estancia in the Pampas, Dario Werthein, owner of Bodegas Riglos said: “We’ve put our energy into Cabernet Franc to show that Argentina is no one trick pony.

“We’re so serious about quality that we only produce 6,000 bottles a year and didn’t make a 2012 vintage as the grapes weren’t up to our standards.”

Founded in 2002, the Riglos estate spans 72 hectares in Tupungato and the Uco Valley in Mendoza. Production is small, with only 80,000 bottles produced each year, including a Malbec, a Cabernet Sauvignon and red blend Gran Corte.

Riglos' red blend, Gran Corte
Riglos’ red blend, Gran Corte

“Argentina’s fine wine future lies in small production wines from well mapped out micro terroirs – it’s time to get the quality message across to consumers,” Rafael Calderón, Riglos’ CEO, told db.

“When we started out, people thought it was too risky to plant Cabernet at high altitude, but I love the expression that comes from the cooler climate,” he added.

As a means of ensuring quality, Riglos only uses its own grapes and has enlisted the help of Paul Hobbs as a consultant.

The US is currently its main market, accounting for 45% of sales, though Calderon plans to eventually double production to 160,000 bottles.

“We are currently only using 40% of our grapes as we select the best and sell the rest to our neighbours,” Calderon said, adding, “There will be a lot more wine to work with this year.”

While not a problem for the estate, Calderon conceded that water is one of the key issues impacting the Argentinian wine industry.

“Water is a huge issue in Argentina right now. They have changed the rules so new producers are not allowed to build wells.

“Luckily, we bought the land with water rights back in 2002, but we had to dig 200 metres to find it,” he said.

One of the wealthiest men in Argentina, Werthein part owns the Los W Group, which has assets in telecoms, oil, gas, textiles, property and financial services.

“Wine makes the least money but is the most enjoyable of all my business ventures,” he admitted.

Werthein also revealed to db that he dreams of making Pinot Noir in Argentina.

“I’m a huge fan of Pinot Noir, so would love to make my own one day, but for now we’ve planted Petit Verdot to see whether it can work in our red blend,” he said.

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