Wölffer expanding south, and …

According to a post on winespectator.com (subscription site) on James Molesworth’s blog, “A Stirring of the Lees,” Christian Wölffer is expanding his holdings to include vineyard land in Argentina. The goal is to make more money. Molesworth writes:

Wölffer, whose eponymous Long Island winery produces around 16,500 cases annually, makes no bones about his frustration with that region’s wine industry.
“You can’t make money here doing quality,” he said bluntly. “You can only make money here if you do volumes.”

This is certainly contrary to Mr. Wölffer’s past actions including selling his Premier Cru at $100, the first, and only, Long Island wine to enter the “one buck” territory occupied by California cult cabs. The first vintage of this wine, a 2000, was released in 2003 with a press release:

WÖLFFER ESTATE CHALLENGES BORDEAUX TO A DUEL

WITH THE LAUNCH OF PREMIER CRU 2000

NEW YORK, May 13, 2003—Luminaries of the wine world gathered recently at Daniel restaurant in New York City to taste the much-anticipated first vintage of Premier Cru, an ultra-premium Merlot from Wölffer Estate Vineyards & Stables, located on Long Island’s South Fork in the heart of the Hamptons. A rare gem, only 200 six-bottle cases of Premier Cru 2000 were produced and to date, only 30 cases remain unsold, 20 of which will be kept in Wölffer’s Library for aging to showcase the wine’s longevity.


The Spectator gave that wine an 88.  Molesworth’s post after the jump.

Despite the tough economic times, the wine industry marches on. There are still those out there looking for opportunity—Christian Wölffer among them.

Wölffer, whose eponymous Long Island winery produces around 16,500 cases annually, makes no bones about his frustration with that region’s wine industry.

“You can’t make money here doing quality,” he said bluntly. “You can only make money here if you do volumes.”

Consequently, Wölffer has long had his eye on potential projects elsewhere, namely Argentina. He’s been poking around in Mendoza and other parts of the country for six years now, and has finally made a few moves.

“I love the wine culture in Argentina. One, they make great wine, and two, it’s priced competitively. So you can do quality and make some money,” he said.

Among Wölffer’s recent moves are a minority share in an ownership group that has bought the Cavas Rosell Boher winery, known for sparkling wine production that has historically been aimed at Argentina’s domestic market, in addition to some exported red and white table wines.

Wölffer is also developing 2,000 acres of land in Mendoza, located at higher elevations on the road leading away from the Bodega Catena Zapata facility. There are already 740 acres planted to a range of grapes, including Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and more, with the first crop due this coming spring. The project, named Santa María de los Andes, will also feature a new winery facility and hotel.

Wölffer isn’t standing pat there—he’s attempting to purchase another winery in one of the northern regions of Argentina (no names can be discussed as the deal is not finalized), and he’s also developing a property just outside of Buenos Aires, the nation’s capital, that will feature several hundred residential units, a spa, golf course and equestrian center.

Wölffer doesn’t mince words—he’s in business for the sake of business. But he knows that quality is key to success, particularly when it comes to wine. His ambitious Long Island winery (he charges $100 for one of his Long Island Merlot bottlings) shows he isn’t afraid to push the envelope, both in terms of quality or marketing.

So while the vinous results from his nascent Argentina projects are still a few years off, he should prove to be an interesting player as the country’s wine industry continues to develop.

The wine industry marches on.

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2 Comments

Filed under The Local Cellars

2 responses to “Wölffer expanding south, and …

  1. Definitely contrary….and definitely interesting.

    Mark Lieb hasn’t bought anything there yet, but I know that he is importing a couple Chilean wines (a sauv blanc and a carmenere) to help “round out the portfolio” when their sales reps make calls…

    Given that you’re probably a “call” have you tasted either one? I have them in my samples queue.

  2. Pingback: AWToday 21/12/08 « AWToday

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