Argentina will open a dedicated office in the UK before the end of 2006, decanter.com can reveal.

This follows a ground-breaking meeting of around 90 people representing the majority of Argentina’s wine exporters that concluded yesterday.

This is a highly significant move for a country that has, in the past, been criticised for its inability to grow and consolidate its market share in the UK – mainly due to a lack of generic support, and little in the way of unified strategy at home.

While Argentina’s market share has surged on the back of good vintages and sporadic publicity campaigns, it has then fallen.

Argentine wine sales currently account for only 1.6% of the UK market despite it being one of the world’s six largest producers.

The decision to open the office was taken by Wines of Argentina in conjunction with Corporación Vitivinícola Argentina (Coviar), a new body set up after Argentina’s economic woes started following devaluation in 2002.

Renowned Argentine producer and Coviar board member José Alberto Zuccardi told decanter.com funds would be found to open an office in the UK by the end of next year.

‘We are increasingly unified in the wine industry and now we’re starting to make the funds available to implement meaningful strategies such as this one.’

Though Zuccardi remained tight-lipped about the exact funds to be allocated to the office or who might head it up, he did say that it would probably be someone from the UK trade who would be in charge. ‘We can’t waste time getting to know the market. We need fast results,’ he said.

Coviar is a policy-deciding body with a 17-strong board of directors: 12 private and 5 from government. It generates funds from levies and private contributions from wineries. The first monies started to be made available in 2005 and hitherto the association has garnered some US$3.5m.

As Zuccardi points out, state funds have been non-existent in recent years, and the government has even slapped a 5% tax on exports.

Written by Peter Richards