The number of foreign tourists in Mendoza, the Centro VI Tivinícola of Argentina, increased 58% in February compared to the previous year, well above the increase of 19% at the national level, as shown by government data published a few weeks ago. Wine exports have increased by 8% over the year, which contrasts with a general decline in the country’s exports during the same period.
Argentina is being hit by a combination of rising inflation and its second recession in three years. The false steps in last year’s policies undermined investor confidence, leading to the weight of losing half of its value against the US dollar and forcing policymakers to look for billions of dollars from the Monetary Fund I Nternational. While the wine industry is by no means immune to the slowdown, there are signs that it is overcoming adversity.
«Our restaurant is full every day,» says Labid Ameri, president of Wines Domaine Bousquet in Tupungato, a city in the province of Mendoza. «The devaluation of weight has to do with the increase in tourism.»
The organic wine Vineyard of Ameri experienced an increase of 55% in visitors from November to March, which is the peak tourism season, compared to the same period of the previous year. He claims that sales increased in a similar amount, and visitor traffic is so fast that he is building a vineyard hotel that will be completed in August. Ameri exports most of his bottles.
Tourism’s impulse in February in Mendoza follows similar increases in January and December. The number of Brazilian tourists almost doubled in the fourth quarter of last year, while the Americans came in greater numbers and doubled their daily expenses.
For Alejandro Vigil, co-director of one of the most famous vineyards in Argentina, Catena Zapata, the business is booming. The visits to its vineyards have increased 53% so far this year, while sales have increased 40%. Its «great enemy» wine costs around US$60-US $70 in the U.S., but only US $36 (24000 Chilean pesos) in Argentina.
Indeed, Argentina’s problems still resonate among wine makers. The country has the highest interest rate in the world (66%), making it difficult to borrow and earn money. The wine requires an initial investment in goods ranging from tanks to harvesting equipment.
The fall in weight has made imported parts, such as corks and cases, expensive, and there are signs of a weakening of consumption by Argentines with cash problems. As a result, vineyards that focus on domestic sales are under pressure, according to Ameri.
«I see many wineries dependent on domestic consumption that they are suffering,» he says. «No one in the world can sustain a rate of 60%.»