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PostMalbec World Day: a Lunch in 1990 (William Ratliff, USA, 04/18/12 1:41 am)
In June 1990 I lunched with then-Argentine First Lady Zulema Yoma de Menem and several government ministers at the Quinta de Olivos in the northern outskirts of Buenos Aires. (This was the day before then-President Carlos Menem evicted his increasingly estranged wife from this official residence of Argentine presidents.) Roger Fontaine (my co-author for two short books on Argentina) and I urged the minister in charge of trade to focus on the export of Malbec and lesser Argentine wines as a way to boost the still inflation-ravaged economy. (The Chilean example was already there to learn from, without of course having to admit doing so.)
The minister's quick semi-serious response was that there wasn't enough to export because Argentines want to drink all that Malbec themselves. We said we sympathized with the sentiment, but it was bad economics. At that time a few US stores occasionally sold Argentine wines but shipments were so irregular that consumers no sooner discovered a wine they liked than it stopped turning up on store shelves. Little was done for some years, alas, but I at least could carry bottles home with me after my several dozen trips down during the 1990s. Now many US store shelves are pretty well stocked and we even have a Malbec World Day. True, John, Norton is not the best of the Malbecs, but as you say for some of us prices usually matter.
The first time I had a fairly expensive Malbec was in December 2001 when my brother and I were dining in a small but beautiful hillside restaurant in the spectacular southernmost Argentine city of Ushuaia, awaiting a ship departure to Antarctica. We ordered an exquisite lamb dinner and looked longingly at the wine list with a fine Malbec listed at a little over $100. The restaurant owner heard us sigh and came over to remind us that as of that day, when the again-ravaged Argentine economy finally fully crashed, we could have the bottle for $30--and would get the dinner similarly discounted as well. So we ordered the wine and left a very generous tip.
JE comments: I somehow knew that our esteemed President Emeritus, William Ratliff, had a hand in the genesis of Malbec World Day! (Wonderful to hear from you, Bill, by the way!) I trust that WAISers far and wide had a great MWD. For those who missed it, there's always next year.
Oh, and I hope US WAISers filed their tax returns on time, without too much pain.
on Wine Exports
(John Heelan, -UK
04/19/12 3:14 AM)
William Ratliff (18 April) mentioned the Argentine reaction in 1990 to his suggestion that they increase the export of Malbec wines: "The minister's quick semi-serious response was that there wasn't enough to export because Argentines want to drink all that Malbec themselves."
Unfortunately for overseas wine-lovers, that approach is adopted far too often. Some of the better wines that I love in their native countries sometimes cannot be obtained outside those countries because the local population consumes the annual stock. For examples some New Zealand whites, some Alsace whites, some German whites (ignore the reds!) some Italian reds, some Georgian and Rumanian reds, some Spanish manzanilla sherries, some Californian whites and reds (they ship the less than good stuff), and so on. (By the way, I find UK wines appalling and best avoided, so they can ship the whole stock as far as I am concerned!)
JE comments: UK wines rarely make it to our shores--frankly, I didn't know there were any! However, ever the open-minded connoisseur, I'd be happy to give them a try. Michigan has a number of wineries centered in the western part of the state. Some of their product is quite respectable, but I doubt it is exported. The Traverse City region makes a surprisingly good wine from local cherries. I took a bottle to Prof. Hilton's house in 2006, and it received positive reviews from all.
(This reminds me: I still owe Randy Black a couple of bottles of Traverse City red, the result of losing a bet on last fall's playoff series between the Texas Rangers and the Detroit Tigers. Randy--I haven't forgotten!)