"It is amazing to us that hardly anyone else in Argentina tries to make wines of this type”
Even though its winemaking traditions can be traced back to the 16th century, Argentina has not always been classed among the world’s great winemaking countries by those knowledgeable in the wine industry. What’s more, with its epicenter around the City of Mendoza and its geographical location in the incredibly picturesque Andes Mountains, the wines of Argentina were often compared to its next-door neighbor (across the mountains) Chile.
During the period lasting from 1970-2000, Chile took the lead and produced a large number of drinkable, affordable wines for the world export market. Argentina, on the other hand, concentrated on its more regional audience and produced wines that were more familiar and styled to its local support base. Because consumption within Argentina hovered near the 90-litre per person level, there was no real need to worry about the suddenly crowded world export market.
Sometime around five or six years ago, a combination of an inflated peso (now tied into the US dollar) and a decisive drop in consumption levels produced a remarkable change in the modern Argentine wine market.
A number of wineries quickly shifted gears and began programs of line improvement with particular attention to high quality varietals that were attractive to the export market. Today, a number of producers offer wines that exceed $50 a bottle, a price level unheard of in Argentina just a decade or so ago.
And, happily, the world wine market and the all-important world wine press has started to consider many of Argentina’s classier export wines among the better wines being produced in the entire wine making world.
There is also a new class of wineries springing up in Argentina’s wine growing region. Fashioned after some of the successful boutique wineries in Europe and California, these smallish wineries specialize in certain varietals that have worldwide panache.
Such is the case with Marta’s Vinyard and its most unique spelling.
“In actuality, we chose the different form of vineyard on purpose,” offered co-owner Malcolm Falconer. “We wanted to identify the name of the company as opposed to the name of a particular piece of land. We’ve received a great many comments on the spelling, including an aristocratic British gentleman who insisted the name was a blight on the English language.”
For the record, the first release of Marta’s Vinyard occurred in 2000 and totaled a little fewer than 1200 cases. The winery is named after Falconer’s wife Marta, an Argentine native whose family has been in the wine business since the 1890’s, mostly as growers but occasionally as vintners.
When the Falconers came to the realization that a potential niche existed abroad for a really top-quality Argentine wine, they jumped at the opportunity.
“It is perfectly fair to say that Marta’s Vinyard was created with the world wine market in mind,”
Falconer added. “Both Marta and I had spent many years familiarizing ourselves with the European and world market and analyzing the type of wine that could ultimately be successful in such an environment.”
It certainly helped that Marta Lunardi Falconer had spent a great deal of her life working within her family’s extensive vineyard operations in Mendoza. She was able to bring a level of expertise to Marta’s Vinyard that was imperative to the entity’s long-term success.
In the six years of Marta’s Vinyard’s existence, the company has grown to its present level of over 30,000 cases. Marta’s Vinyard wines have won numerous medals in exacting international competitions and won a rash of rave reviews from apprehensive wine writers who had formerly
dismissed Argentine wines from any consideration.
“It is amazing to us that hardly anyone else in Argentina tries to make wines of this type,” Falconer emphasized. “As awareness and wine dissemination continues to increase in the wine world there seems to be an obvious a market for superior Argentine wines. We are now in seven countries and will soon be in others. An esteemed French Champagne house has even contacted us to allow them to represent Marta’s Vinyard in France. To me, that’s really icing on the cake when you can sell your product to the French.” Sage words, particularly from a lexis that speaks volumes regarding the quality aspects of Marta’s Vinyard wines.
We are delighted to be able to bring these exciting new wines to you and trust you will enjoy these wonderful wines from Argentina as much as we did in finding them.
Marta's Vinyard - Malcolm Falconer and Marta Lunardi
It can be correctly stated that it is impossible to separate the two principals that co-own these International Selections from Marta’s Vinyard. The fact that they are married makes the job a bit easier.
Malcolm Falconer first met Marta Lunardi when they both worked for British Airways around 1992 in Buenos Aires. Falconer was a Scotsman and ran BA’s Latin American operations. Marta Lunardi was a flight attendant from the wine city of Mendoza whose family had immigrated from Italy’s Piemonte Region three generations before. Marta had worked in and around her family’s vineyards since she was a child of three or four, literally since she had learned to walk. She saw in Falconer, a worldly Scotsman who had loved wine since his teens and was a person who literally appreciated the finer things in life. The couple’s work with British Airways allowed them to travel a great deal and the relationship flowered through the years, ending in marriage in 2000. By then, a plan they had begun to nurture a number of years before was finally able to be brought to fruition.
‘It was actually quite simple,” Malcolm Falconer recently recalled. ‘We always attended Lunardi Family picnics and outings and invariably the conversation would center around the family’s wines and the complaints that the family had about the people who marketed their wines. It seemed that the people just didn’t care about the wines as much as the family did. We basically agreed with her family’s position so we talked it over and we agreed it was possible for us to take over the marketing and do it for ourselves rather than paying others. We also felt there was a real need for a great Argentine wine that was made in the style of Bordeaux, the type of wine we liked most and seemingly the wine the entire world enjoyed.”
Business plans were projected and Falconer decided to bankroll the new operation. Since so much of Marta’s expertise was involved, they decided to name it Marta’s Vinyard. The falconers also agreed to make a true commitment to the new venture, no matter the time and effort involved. The pair also realized they were treading on dangerous territory, attempting to accomplish something that had not previously been done in Argentina.
‘We knew it would take a great deal of time and sweat to accomplish,” he added, ‘but we were determined.” That resolve has resulted in 14-16 hour days, seven days a week since the project’s inception. The entity now boasts of a multi-continent commitment, with offices in both the United Kingdom and Buenos Aires. Malcolm Falconer spends two-thirds of this time traveling and one third in Argentina. Marta is also on the road, but manages to spend half of her time around Mendoza, particularly when it comes to production time.
‘Most people prefer to talk to Marta,” Falconer injected cheerfully. ‘She has a wonderful personality and way about her. To be sure, she is the story of Marta’s Vinyard, and no one tells it any better than she. She does a great deal more than just dealing with the production aspects of our business.” While the nature of their family’s wine growing business allows for literally unlimited future growth, the couple is realistic when it comes to getting bigger. At this point, they are trying to figure out how to spend more time with each other and still meet their exacting travel schedules. They attend practically every European trade event and have even broken through the difficult far eastern wine market with representation in both Japan and Singapore.
While it might seem like a great deal of glitter and gold to outsiders, Marta’s Vinyard is a vehicle of determination and hard work to Malcolm and Marta Falconer. The fact that they also have a great deal of money involved in Marta’s Vinyard is also most important to the couple. Recently, the Argentine ambassador to Great Britain selected Marta’s Vinyard to serve at his annual polo extravaganza and a Latin American-European conference involving the heads of state of several countries did likewise. These are feathers in the caps of the still fledgling winery, but Marta’s Vinyard’s owners still see great things ahead.
‘Whenever we reach the hundreds of thousands of cases and can still control our quality, then we can relax a bit,” Malcolm Falconer concluded. ‘But until we do, it’s more of the same.”