Beer and guaro have long been the alcoholic drinks of choice in Costa Rica, but wine enthusiasts here may soon have new South American bouquets to whet their palettes.
The Argentinean wine industry is growing rapidly, and a series of Argentinean vintners are heading for the Costa Rican market to meet what they say is a rising demand for fine wines.
Members of the wine industry who have already broken into the market, such as the internationally renowned Navarro Correas Winery from Mendoza, Argentina, which has been in Costa Rica for three years, are introducing new vintages in the country.
The large number of tourists who come to Costa Rica with a taste for nicely crafted vintages are fueling the increased demand, along with changing cultural habits here, said Ricardo Puebla, export manager for Wines of Argentina, which promotes exports of Argentinean wines.
Chilean vintners have a large share of the fine wine market in Costa Rica, and Argentinean wine producers want to get in on the action, said Puebla, speaking at a recent exhibition of Argentinean wines at the Hotel Real InterContinental in the western San José suburb of Escazú.
Nearly half of the 24 Argentinean wineries represented at the exhibition were trying to find Costa Rican distributors to break into the market here. Toting scores of wine bottles, companies came to introduce their products or broaden their appeal.
At separate events organized as part of its Wine Maker Tour 2006, Navarro Correas representatives presented Costa Rica the 2003 vintage of its Navarro Correas Ultra brand.
On Sept. 4 and 5, Costa Rica became part of Navarro Correas’ yearly tour for the first time, senior winemaker Juan Marcó told The Tico Times during a press conference at Donde Carlos Parrillada Argentinean restaurant in the eastern San José neighborhood of Los Yoses.
“Costa Rica has become one of our key markets,” Marcó said, explaining that Navarro Correas previously exported only to Mexico in this region.
The brand has now spread into every Central American country, as well as Europe, the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.
Established more than 200 years ago, Navarro Correas is now the fifth largest wine producer in the world, export manager Diego Surazsky told journalists.
Navarro Correas is available at wine stores, supermarkets and restaurants in the country; prices range from approximately $13 to $50.
Argentinean vintners say the vast geography and high valleys of their sun-drenched country, which covers 2,766,890 square kilometers, is conducive to quality and variety.
Most growers sell malbec, a full-bodied red wine typical of Argentina, and a few include torrontés, a white wine unique to the South American country, in their catalogues.
Familiar grape varietals including cabernet sauvignon, syrah, pinot noir, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are also common Argentinean vinos. Merlot, a mellow red wine that became the butt of jokes after being derided by the wine snob protagonist of the 2004 U.S. comedy “Sideways,” also makes appearances.
Apart from Navarro Correas, Bodega Norton and Luigi Bosca are two Argentinean brands currently available in Costa Rica.
The highlights of Norton’s line include several malbecs and malbec blends. The basic malbec, which sells for about $11 in Costa Rica, is a solid, flavorful red wine. For about $28, the Norton sells a blend of malbec, merlot, and cabernet that unifies a fruity fragrance and subtle wood flavor in a deliciously complex mixture.
Alain Spruyt, whose Cabernet Wine Shops in the eastern San José suburbs of San Pedro and Curridabat carry Norton wines, said he plans to import more cabernet, shiraz and merlot from the winery.
Luigi Bosca sells a good pinot noir for about $23 and a top-of-the-line malbec with a strong, slightly sharp flavor for $54. Several wineries looking for distributors in Costa Rica were present at the Escazú exhibit, including Quara, whose products include an elegantly smooth, fresh-tasting, high-altitude torrontés; the O. Fournier winery, which offers strong varieties of malbec, tempranillo and sauvignon blanc in everyday Urbano and luxury Alfa Crux lines; and the Familia Schroeder winery from Patagonia, which produces an exotic but expensive pinot noir-malbec blend.