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The other day I had the great joy of interviewing one of the many young entrepreneurs in the Argentine wine industry. His name is Federico Kunz and he is the founder and current director of Wine of Mendoza, a company that offers a variety of services to the wine sector.
Please describe to the readers a little bit about yourself. What region in Argentina are you from? How many years have you spent in the wine industry? Do you come from a background in which wine played an important role?
My name is Federico Kunz and I was born in Buenos Aires on November 26, 1976. That makes me 30 years old. Three years ago I moved to Mendoza when I married my wife, Eugenia, who was born in Mendoza. Currently, we both are linked to the wine industry in distinct ways. She focuses on the wine tourism aspect while I work on the commercial end of the industry. Before working in the wine industry, I occupied a position in the banking sector as an internal auditor. And yes, wine was always an important part of my family, but the passion for this beverage began with my arrival to Mendoza.
What did you study? What was your major?
I received a degree in Tourism after which I began to study Business Adminsitration at the University of Buenos Aires, which I didn’t end up finishing. As far as wine, I really learned a lot by visiting wineries and asking everything I could think of, and of course trying a lot of different wines.
How did your passion for wine really begin?
When I arrived in Mendoza I had the opportunity to visit a lot of wineries, from the smallest which we call “boutiques” to the most industrial, and even to the most traditional. Each winery makes wine in a distinct way with its own methods and patterns. At the beginning, that’s what really grabbed my attention. After having the chance to try and taste distinct varietals combined with the discovery of the different methods of making the wine, I really became passionate about this new world that had been opened up to me.
When did you start Wine of Mendoza and with what objectives?
Wine of Mendoza was born two years ago with the objective of being a specialized business in the Mendoza wine region as well as in all of Argentina. We wanted to be well-known, valued, and chosen by the domestic and international markets as a trustworthy, competitive, and innovative provider of wines. In short, we wanted to provide service that was founded on a quality product and high standards. Finally, our main goal is to sustain our clear and consist philosophy: shorten the distance between the producer of wine and its consumer.
A large part of the expansion of the wine industry has come in the export market. Are you hoping to develop the international part of your business or focus on the domestic market?
The external market is something that we are currently trying to better develop. Since the beginning of this year we have been allotting resources so as to focus more on the export sector and to be able to reach the rest of the world. We are currently working with FedEx, DHL, and TNT in order to send bottles to other parts of the world. In addition, we are making a lot of connections through the international tourists that visit Mendoza and other regions of Argentina such as Patagonia.
You are part of the new generation of entrepreneurs in the Argentine wine industry. What differences are there between the older generations and your generation?
I believe the fundamental difference is service. People are talking more about the service that comes with a product. Our company not only provides products but we also offer services: we prepare, we recommend, and we adjust wine lists for restaurants, and we even create wine tastings according to the tastes of each client. We are constantly providing service to our clients. We are always seeking to provide more value to what we currently do. Although the consumption per person in Argentina has gone down, the quality of the wine that is consumed has gone up, and thus we have to pay attention to this trend and add value and service to these products.
Are you guys, and when I say “guys” I’m referring to this new generation, more optimistic due to the growth of the wine industry during the past 10 years than the older generations that have experienced several crises?
During the last 10 years Argentina has grown in the wine sector, which is mainly due to the monetary policy that we had until 2001 that helped the wine industry expand to other markets and make important technological advances. I believe that today the industry continues to grow thanks to favorable circumstances in the current economy, in particular the exchange rate, but also the quality that Argentina has achieved in its products and the place that it has earned in the external market.
How does the unstable macroeconomic history of Argentina affect your outlook towards the future?
I’m not afraid of falling into another financial crisis similar to what has happened in the past. I know that it is especially prudent to plan sometimes and one form to protect against another crisis, as I mentioned earlier, is to set aside as many resources to the international market as the domestic market.
Picture: Federico with his wife Marie Eugenia Rodriguez who co-owns the tourist agency Aventura Wine in Mendoza.
More information on Wine of Mendoza can be found on their website at: http://www.wineofmendoza.com/.