The most influential winemaker in the wine business – he is now working with fourteen wineries around the world and is travelling six months a year – he does not hesitate to defend Malbec’s international potential, and says that there is still plenty of land so that the Argentine industry can continue to grow its emblematic varietal.
“The country can make good cabernet sauvignon, but in this area it has to compete with France and the United States. In contrast, the Argentine Malbec has no rival and also has the advantage that its wines are good from the North to the South. The country is fortunate to have been able to develop an almost private variety, “he said in a dialogue with La Nacion .
He has been visiting Argentina for almost thirty years and says that in these three decades, the change in the wine business was complete. Currently he advises wineries throughout the country, from Neuquén to Salta, and for some years he also decided to invest in an own project in the Valle de Uco, Mendoza, where he had already set foot working with French investors who Integrate Clos De Los Siete.
Investors have penalised us too much in the last ten years. Today it is working a little better, but it is not so easy. Argentina is a great country to invest and there are many people out there who want to do it. We must help the national producers, “Michel says in his dual status as project consultant for third parties and entrepreneur winemaker with own investments in the Argentine market.
-How did you get to the wine business?”
I come from a family of winemakers. I grew up talking about wine first with my grandfather and then with my dad, and later I studied oenology at the University of Bordeaux. The truth is that I never thought I would travel to make wines around the world, but I was always a very curious person, and when I came to a place I would visit the vineyards. Now, after forty-odd years of working on this, I can say that I am a little known in the wine world.
-How is your professional life? How much time per year do you spend travelling?
There are many trips in my life. I spent six months in France and six months out. I am two months in Argentina, two in the United States and the rest in other countries. In total I am making wines in fourteen countries and throughout my career I worked in 21 nations.
-How do you evaluate the evolution of Argentine wine?
What Argentina experienced was not just an evolution. All changed. I came to the country in 1988. And at that time, Argentina was a very large wine producer, but focused exclusively on the domestic market and was hardly exported. What the country was producing was a cheap product and not of very good quality. Today it is the other way around, the wine of poor quality practically disappeared. And we have a very good product, even in the range of entry wines, it has improved a lot.
-A few years ago Argentine wine exports did not grow. Is there not a risk of industry stagnation?
Today does not grow as fast as the Argentines would like. But in the same way we have made great progress. I remember that ten years ago, when Argentina was exporting about 500 million, in an interview they asked me if we would ever reach 1,000 million. And three years later we had achieved it. The country also suffered a crisis, especially since 2008, which affected all international markets. But the important thing is that as fifth producer of the world, Argentina has an accomplished space and image at international level. I do not want to sound unpleasant with our Chilean friends, but I think Argentina outshined the image of Chilean wines.
-What is the difference between Argentine wine and the world?
The vines. It is not easy to develop a good Malbec in other parts of the world. In Argentina you can take a very good Malbec in Cafayate and also 2000 kilometres to the south, in Neuquén. It would be like making a very good cabernet sauvignon in London and in Morocco. Something impossible to get in the northern hemisphere.
-At the local level it is discussed whether to continue betting on Malbec or to diversify. Do you see any vine with a lot of projection?
Argentina is fortunate to have a variety that exists in other countries, but here it comes with great production and great quality, which explains the well-earned reputation that has Malbec around the world. The country can make good cabernet sauvignon, but in this area it has to compete with France and the United States. In contrast, the Argentine Malbec has no rival and also has the advantage that its wines are good from the North to the South. The country is fortunate to have been able to develop an almost private variety. I am convinced that we must talk about Malbec, because only Argentina has it.
-There’s a lot of talk about the terroir in the industry. Is it a marketing concept?
The terroir exists. In all parts of the world it exists. But I think the danger of talking so much about the terroir is to forget the product. The first thing to make is the wine and then talk about the land.
-In business there is a core idea that says that every industry gets its Airbnb. Is there anything disruptive in the wine market?
The market is always looking for something new. As in the world of airplanes are the low cost airlines , in the wine world there are formulas to capture the attention of consumers. That’s why we have to fight every day. The competition is very fierce and to win you have to be better than all the rest.
I loved the country from the beginning. The first thing I knew was Cafayate thirty years ago I fell in love with the place and the Argentines in general. Likewise, working with Argentines can be a bit more complicated, and especially when you do not speak Spanish well.
–What’s the problem?” The ego that the Argentines have?
Argentines are not so easy every day. At the beginning it was a bit complicated. This country has it all. It is a wonderful land. I know the whole country very well. And I loved the wines, even at a time when the production was not so good, you could see the very strong potential that the country had.
– Does the country have potential to grow in the wine business or is it already mature?
Of course it has enormous potential, but we have to look at politics at national level to help investors. Investors have penalised us too much in the last ten years. Today it is working a little better, but it is not so easy. Argentina is a great country to invest and there are many people out there who want to do it. We need to help domestic producers.