Q&A: Phil Crozier, Wines of Argentina

As former director of wine at London’s Gaucho restaurant group, Phil Crozier made the bold step of taking its list exclusively Argentine in 2015, such is his confidence in the quality and range of its wines. Having done much to further the success of Argentine wine in the UK, now he’s taking his mission global, and spreading his wings as brand ambassador for Wines of Argentina. Here, he explains why Argentina and its wines hold such a special place in his heart.

Phil Crozier, ambassador for Wines of Argentina

For you, what makes Argentina such an exciting wine region?

Its people. Its personality. Its energy and curiosity. Its openness to the outside world. A combination of the old and the new. A great winemaking history. It has a story that needs telling. I find that new winemakers are very keen to tell this story through their wines.

Can you remember the moment that you ‘fell’ for Argentina and its wines?

Yes. My first trip in 1999: Salta, Mendoza, the Andes, the people. I felt I was going to be part of something special. I was very naive, keen to learn. They made me feel like a rockstar right from day one. I feel very lucky to have chosen Argentina. It was the right place and the right time. Of course I only see this in hindsight now. I had no idea then.

How have you seen the country’s approach to winemaking and marketing changed over the last decade?

I have seen a change in confidence and a journey of self discovery. I think the move towards regionality is really gathering pace. The big challenge now is to convince the consumer that this level of complexity is worth pursuing in terms of long term market penetration. Thankfully, we have Malbec to provide a palate to see what those differences bring to Argentina.

Which variety/region would you like to see consumers to pay greater attention to?

The white wines of Argentina. Torrontés has huge potential, especially as it is so food friendly, and Cabernet Franc, especially from Gualtallary. I think we must not forget the old regions, and pass them over for the Uco Valley. There is enough room for the new, nervy wines from new and young winemakers, who provide much of the excitement, and the old school classic wines that come from some of the more unfashionable areas. They provide much of the history of Argentina. I hope that once we know more, they may be fashionable too. Winemaking has improved so much on all fronts. Earlier picking, less reliance on oak, more purity and less intervention.

How can the UK on-trade more effectively position and communicate the diversity and high quality of Argentine wines to the public?

We have to stop treating Malbec as a commodity – just a label. This grape’s popularity provides a perfect platform from which to educate the consumer about the diversity of Argentina. Great strides have been made to change people’s perceptions about quality. We have to ensure that we explore other varietals and regions. I feel confident that there is enough affection and enthusiasm about Argentine wines. We now need to make people see that there is so much more.

What’s the biggest misconception about Argentine wines in the UK?

That it’s all Malbec and Mendoza. I guess every wine producing country experiences this, especially when the wines become so popular. We can’t complain, but we have to work a lot harder.

What’s your take on Argentina’s white wines and their potential for success in the UK?

I am proud of the strides that Argentina have made in the quality of white wines in recent years. As I mentioned before, we have an indigenous grape in Torrontés. I think that blending has the most potential to bring new consumers both to Torrontés and Argentine white wines. Sémillon has a great history and fantastic potential.
Everyone is a competitor. Chile does white wine well, of course, so I guess they already have a march on Argentina in that respect. White wine from Argentina will take time, but if we take the rate of improvement and identity that has taken just a few years, I feel confident that they will find both an identity and a long term market. Again, regionality is key.

What developments are you seeing with regards to wines emerging from Cafayate/Salta? What makes them unique and what’s driving their growth?

Well, they have a great story and the highest vineyards in the world. Cafayate is of course unique, but there are other smaller regions in Salta that add to the allure. The quality/price relationship is fantastic. And of course the wines are unique – power, concentration and personality. I think they produce some of the most recognisable, terroir-specific wines in the world.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role as brand ambassador for Wines of Argentina?

I have worked tirelessly at Gaucho to promote wines from Argentina. Gaucho has provided a great vehicle to help with their success. I guess I have learned a lot about how to sell wine, and I hope helping Argentina, the wineries and the consumer to link up. It’s a scary place to be, on the other side. But I am so looking forward to being part of Argentina’s continuing success. I guess putting a familiar face to the wines will help them too. I’m very excited.

Finally, how would you sum in Argentine wines in three words?

Its strap line works well for me – breaking new ground.

One Response to “Q&A: Phil Crozier, Wines of Argentina”

  1. Willy PH says:

    When it comes to things Argentine, it`s always best to take things with “a pinch of salt.“ Their famous Asado, the Malbecs, the Politics, today`s decision to keep abortion illegal, their Economy etc etc . So when it somes to the phrase “terroir-specific“ (Senor Crozier`s above quote: I think they produce some of the most recognisable, terroir-specific wines in the world) I reach for a bucket of the stuff. Bla blah blahh, please, do me a favor and stop the bullroar. Most of It is just ordinary wine from south America fit for the world supermarket. The one or two parcels and Bodegas, maybe three or four infact who do make something quaffable, bravo, kudos to them! But, why are they all so expensive? wether in Recoleta or in St.James`s.

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