Mostly known for its great steaks and joie-de-vivre living, Argentina is making its name as one of the best wine-producing countries in the world. Perhaps one of the most well-known labels is Bodega Norton, a family-owned winery that upholds tradition to produce quality wines. We sat down with CEO and President Michael Halstrick on his recent visit to Bali to learn more about the ins and outs of the industry.
by Rizky Adityo
E: Since taking the helm in 1991, you have successfully steered the winery to become one of Argentina’s most renowned global exporters. Can you tell us more about how you achieved this?
A: I attribute our success to a combination of factors. First and foremost, I focused on building a team of talented professionals who believed in our mission and worked hard to make it a reality, following our Swarovski family philosophy. In addition, I invested in the renewal and expansion of our facilities to increase our production capacity, enabling us to meet higher demand. We also worked hard to open up new export markets and develop relationships with key customers in those markets. This allowed us to introduce our wines to a wider audience and to gain recognition as one of Argentina’s most renowned global exporters.
A: I believe Bodega Norton is defined by a combination of its people, its privileged location in the foothills of the Andes, its passion and history. The people who work in the winery are passionate about producing quality wines and are dedicated to upholding the winery’s legacy. Our location in the foothills of the Andes gives us access to unique terroir and grapes that make for a truly unique wine. Finally, our history of producing quality wines for over a century has solidified our place in the Argentinian wine industry. Together, these elements define Bodega Norton.
E: Given your family’s background, we’re curious as to how you first picked up an interest in wine.
A: My interest in wine began when I was very young. My father was a passionate wine lover, and I grew up around it. When he bought Norton in 1989, I was fascinated by the process of winemaking and the stories behind each bottle. Coming from an Austrian wine-producing region, I had learned a lot about the industry and the people who make it happen. I love how wine can bring people together and connect them to their culture. Wine has always been a way to socialise and create memories, and I’m really drawn to that.
E: So, is working with wine as perfect as it sounds?
A: It is always challenging, every year, every harvest. To produce great wines, you need to perform your best in a changing environment. We sell to 72 countries and our markets are very dynamic. On top of delivering great quality on our current portfolio, we always challenge ourselves to deliver new things, innovate and surprise consumers. You can only do this for more than 130 years if you have a passionate team that loves what they do. So, yes, working with wine is as perfect as it sounds! It is an incredibly rewarding experience.
E: What do you think is special about Argentinian wines?
A: The ideal conditions for growing grapes in the region, between 50 to 3,000 metres above sea level and from north to south are dry and sunny days for more than 300 days per year, and all types of soils, from rocky to sandy to clay, as well as pure meltwater from the Andes mountains.
E: As the CEO and President of Bodega Norton, how have you seen the markets develop over the years, especially in Asia?
A: Japan and China have been our main markets in Asia for many decades, but I´m very impressed to see Southeast Asia developing very fast and becoming passionate about our wines.
E: In 2003, your hard work was acknowledged when you were named Businessman of The Year in the Vitiviniculture Industry. What did the award mean to you on a personal level?
A: Receiving the Businessman of The Year in the Vitiviniculture Industry award was a great honour and personally meaningful to me as it acknowledged the years of dedication and hard work that went into realising our vision to do business in a sustainable way.
E: Bodega Norton is celebrated and enjoyed all around the world, but, of all of your own wines, which do you enjoy the most to drink at home? And why?
A: Privada is my favourite wine because it tells the story of my family in the winery; it is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which my father loved, and has been a top seller in more than 50 countries around the world.
E: What about pet peeves, do you have any when it comes to drinking wine?
A: Make sure that the glass has no odours. Every wine deserves a good glass.
E: You’ve shaped a very impressive history with this winery – what does the future hold?
A: We plan to continue our commitment to producing high-quality, award-winning wines by expanding our winemaking capabilities to develop even further, including other wines such as our high-altitude sparkling wines. We will continue to build on the strong foundation we have established to create a portfolio of wines that represent the best of what the wine world has to offer. We also plan to continue investing in new technologies to make wine production more efficient and sustainable. Additionally, we will continue to explore new ways to reach and engage with our customers, through digital and physical channels, to create a more personalised and enjoyable experience.
A: My advice is to immerse yourself in the world of wine. Attend tastings, learn about the different regions and styles of wine, and read up on wine producers and winemakers. The more you know, the better. Also, take the time to build relationships with wine producers and industry professionals. Networking is key in the wine world, so don’t hesitate to reach out to people in the industry for advice and guidance. And finally, don’t be afraid to start small.
Exquisite Taste Volume 39