Argentina’s Malbec grape: A driving force in wine exports

Native to Bordeaux, France, Malbec has found its true home in Argentina.  This ancient grape, a descendant of Magdeleine noir and Prunelard, has become synonymous with Argentine wine production.

World Malbec Day:  Since 2011, Argentina has celebrated World Malbec Day each April 17th. This initiative by Wines of Argentina promotes Malbec in consumer markets worldwide. The date commemorates the founding of Argentina’s first school of oenology, the Quinta Agronómica, established in Mendoza Province in 1853 by French agronomist Michel Pouget, who is credited with introducing French vines to Argentina.

Malbec’s Diverse Expressions:  Argentina’s unique geography allows Malbec to thrive in various regions, each offering distinct characteristics.  These variations arise from climatic and soil differences, specific plant genetics, vineyard management practices, and individual winemaking techniques.

Widespread Cultivation: 

Malbec is cultivated across 17 Argentine provinces. In 2023, a total of 46,941 hectares were dedicated to Malbec, representing 22.9% of the country’s total vineyards and 41.5% of red grapes suitable for wine production.  The area under Malbec cultivation has grown significantly since 2014, with a 22% increase nationwide (+8,456 hectares).  Mendoza saw a 19% increase, San Juan a 41.7% increase, and other regions a 40.6% increase.

Market Share and Exports:

Malbec dominates Argentina’s domestic market, accounting for 64% of all varietal wine sales. In 2023, nearly half (49%) of Malbec varietal wines were exported, with the remaining 51% sold domestically.

Malbec exports in bulk

Bulk Malbec sales have grown steadily in foreign markets since 2014, while bottled sales have decreased.  Pure Malbec varietal wines and their bulk cuts have experienced a 48.1% volume increase compared to 2014 exports, with a 22.2% increase in FOB value. Conversely, fractional shipments have declined by 11.8% in volume and 12.9% in FOB value over the same period.  Malbec and its blends hold a commanding 78% share of total varietal export volume and contribute 82% of foreign currency earnings.  In 2023, pure Malbec reached 122 countries, with the United Kingdom (35.2%) and the United States (22.7%) as the top destinations, followed by Brazil, Canada, and Mexico.

Evolving Export Trends

  Argentine bulk wine exports have fluctuated significantly between 2018 and 2023.  The peak was reached in 2020 with 192 million liters, while 2023 saw a low of 46 million liters.  However, throughout this period, varietal wines have captured a growing market share, accounting for 91% of the sector’s total external sales in 2023.  Within varietal wines, Malbec reigns supreme at 95%, followed by Torrontés Riojano (3.9%) and Pinot Gris (2.9%).  The average export value of Malbec in 2023 reached $1.07 USD per liter, reflecting a 10% year-on-year increase.

Global Reach: The leading destinations for Argentine bulk Malbec are the United Kingdom (80%), Germany (6%), France, and the United States (each at 5%).  In 2023, a total of 45 wineries from Mendoza and San Juan provinces exported Malbec.

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