MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay’s wine industry, specializing in the high-end sector of the market, is preparing to export the product prepared from the 2020 harvest, which has been called “historic” by experts, amid the worldwide havoc being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Uruguay is far from attaining the figures achieved by its regional competitors in the wine sector – Argentina and Chile – who took in revenues of $167 million and $254 million, respectively, from their own wine exports in the first quarter of this year.
Nevertheless, the small South American country sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil, whose wine exports at the beginning of 2020 stood at about $3.4 million – according to Uruguay XXI, the agency promoting Uruguayan investments, exports and the country brand – has exceeded the figures for the same period in both 2018 and 2019.
So, although experts know about the difficulties wine producers are facing in a world almost paralyzed by the pandemic, Uruguayan vineyards are betting on “this year’s quality” as a key selling point for this year’s crop.
Enologist Jose Maria Lez, the president of the National Vitiviniculture Institute (INAVI), told EFE that this is a situation of an “increase in quality” and that it is part of a public policy plan in cooperation with the private sector to “set a course” for reestablishing Uruguay’s place in the foreign market.
However, he said that “for now” the export move has not yet had the impact INAVI had expected.
Lez is aware that the current world health crisis will have an impact and spoke about Uruguay’s “special characteristics” as a niche marketer, which allows producers there to have a quality product.
INAVI is closely monitoring how the crisis is evolving in countries like Brazil and the United States, two of the main destinations for Uruguayan wine, and refused to rule out planning for a special move in the second half of this year.
“We’re seeing that in some countries wine consumption is not falling, just the manner of it. In Uruguay, something similar is happening: it’s gastronomy that’s fallen off a lot, but on the other hand, we’re seeing that there’s (more) consumption at home, because of the fact that there’s more time and greater tranquility. It’s a beverage that, from our point of view, goes along with this quarantine,” he emphasized.
According to experts, the natural environment should afford the perfect conditions for grape – and therefore wine – production to thrive.
Enologists believe that the 2020 grape harvest will enjoy all the right weather conditions for proper maturation, both in terms of color and in flavoring, and thus this year will see some of the highest-quality wine production in Uruguay’s history.
According to INAVI figures, 159 vineyards this year are processing almost 94 million kilograms (104,000 tons) of grapes, 10.75 percent more than in 2019, when 83 million kg were processed.
Despite the health crisis, Christian Wylie – the general manager of one of Uruguay’s major wine exporters, Bodega Garzon – told EFE that he expects to increase exports by 10 percent this year and to send his product to about 50 countries.
Despite the general economic uncertainty, Wylie said that “it’s a blessing” that wines of the “best quality in history” are “safe and sound” at the country’s wineries this year and this will help to “recapture the rhythm of growth and success” for Uruguayan wines around the world.
According to figures compiled by INAVI, Uruguay has been awarded eight medals – two gold and six silver – at the 2020 Bacchus International and the Vinalies Internationales wine competitions. But, although the prospects appear very good, only time will tell if the 2020 harvest is truly historic, as wine connoisseurs believe.