The Vendimia – Argentina's harvest festival in the wine capital Mendoza - will be celebrated with extra enthusiasm as the country makes the most of booming wine exports.

The devaluation of the peso at the end of 2001 greatly increased the competitiveness of Argentinian wine exports. Overseas sales had been rising prior to devaluation, with US$147m being exported in 2001 compared to $125m in 2000.

Changes, effective from July 2002, to the method used to calculate wine exports have made comparing sales before and after that date difficult, but it is widely acknowledged that sales are still increasing.

Barrios Ramiro, spokesperson for Viñas Argentinas, one of the country’s major producers, says this year’s Vendimia is not just a celebration of the year’s achievements but also a battle cry for the future.

‘The Vendimia has a message of continuing the fight against the current economic situation in Argentina and positioning products of top quality in the International market,’ he said.

Devaluation may have brought instant benefits to Argentinian wine producers, but the situation has its downside. Valentin Bianchi, President of Bodegas Valentin Bianchi, says the influx of new technology and machinery has shrunk.

‘This year has been particularly difficult when buying expensive imports, especially natural corks, pneumatic presses and complex measuring instruments,’ he told decanter.com.

Last year’s harvest was exceptional in both quantity and quality and all indications so far are that this year it will be bigger in volume. Winemakers report neither storms generated by El Niño, nor the recent hailstorms, have affected quality.

Vendimia 2003 starts on 7 March.

Written by Damian Hampson5 March 2003