Argentine Malbec real bottler for Korea

Argentina’s Ambassador to Korea Jorge Roballo speaks at the “Malbec World Day” event at the Millennium Seoul Hilton on April 17. / Courtesy of the Embassy of Argentina

By Rachel Lee

Every April 17 Argentine celebrates its flagship grape, Malbec, worldwide.

This year the “Malbec World Day” was celebrated in over 100 cities around the world, and Korea was no exception.

Argentina’s Ambassador to Korea, Jorge Roballo, hosted a wine tasting to introduce 15 wineries ― presented by 14 Korean importers ― at the Millennium Seoul Hilton on April 17. This was the sixth such event.

“Since its first international edition on April 17, 2011, this global tribute to our wine insignia, the Malbec, has achieved great success and more and more Argentine wines have gained a great reputation in international markets, not only for variety and quality but, specially, for the favorable relation between quality and price,” the ambassador said.

Argentina is the world’s fifth-largest wine producer and ninth-largest wine exporter. It has 1,300 wineries.

The ambassador said the country dedicates about 20 percent of total wine acreage to Malbec in Mendoza province, as well as Northern Patagonia and Salta.

“The experience of growing grapes at higher altitude ― that could go from 300 meters in Patagonia, through around 1,200 meters in Mendoza and up to 3,000 meters in Calchaqui’s valleys in the province of Salta ― permits the grape to receive the right amount of sun and humidity in a much cleaner environment,” he said.

“That explains why our products are considered ‘bio,’ or ‘organic,’ as many define those products as totally natural and free of chemicals or other elements that could interfere with their quality.”

Argentine Malbec is known for the quality of its tannins: silky and mouth-filling.

“This wine is characterized by its intense dark velvet red, fruit and balsamic aromas,” he said. “When it is aged in oak, it develops certain flavors as black or red berries, coffee, vanilla and chocolate that you may find in the back of your palate.”

Local importers ― including Shinsaegae L & B, Shindong Wine, LB Wine and Nana Cellar ― participated in the event.

“Malbec certainly has a cult following in Korea,” Donald Jung, a deputy general manager at LB Wine, told The Korea Times.

LB wine imports Argentina’s Altos Las Hormigas.

“Like the old-world wine producers, Argentina offers high-quality wines, but at very competitive prices,” Jung said. “I think Malbec, in particular, goes well with roast beef.”

The old-world wines come from European meccas like France, Italy and Spain.

“Argentina is one of the popular wine producers in the local market, along with the United States, for their soft taste and also the price,” a Nana Cellar spokesperson said.

In Korea, wine imports have been increasing over the past seven years, surpassing imported hard liquor for the first time last year. Changing drinking cultures, especially among young people, have driven the popularity of wines _ and more people are enjoying wine and food matching.

According to the Korea International Trade Association, wine imports last year reached $189 million ― a 4.2 percent increase on a year earlier.

Argentine wine imports increased 13.3 percent in the first 10 months of last year on the same period a year earlier. Accumulated imports reached $3.3 million from $2.9 million.

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