The Malbec MiracleIn the early 1900s, Argentina was a rising star. The country had an excellent climate, cheap land, and a strategic location for trade. Soon enough, Argentina had one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. People expected skyscrapers and cities to replace rural land. This, however, did not come to pass. Argentina’s economic growth suddenly faded, and poverty rates grew. From 1975 to 1990, Argentina suffered from military dictators and constant political conflict. It seemed to be over for the rising star. Then, in a small province called Mendoza, the Malbec miracle changed everything.

A Turn of the Century Depression

The wine, as a commodity, was not new to Argentina. In fact, the country’s wine industry was a large reason for its economic success in the early 1900s. Introduced by European settlers, Argentina’s temperate climate was perfect for growing wine. Argentina also does not have a large presence of Phylloxera, an insect that destroys vineyards. The province of Mendoza, with its high altitude and intense sunlight, is particularly suitable for growing wine. Unfortunately, Argentina’s wine industry fell along with its overall economy during a major recession from 1998 to 2002. This was due to a dependence on domestic demand.

Around 90% of the wine produced in Argentina was consumed locally. When poverty started to increase, people could no longer buy wine. Argentina’s economy hit record lows in the late 1980s. And, the grape variety called Malbec was unknown and dismissed by many as a “poor-mans grape.” It was clear that Argentina needed a miracle.

Economic Success

Argentines could not grow the Malbec grape. It was very susceptible to parasites and needed high elevation and perfect weather for cultivation. Most of the world had forgotten about the grape. But, Mendoza’s high elevation and parasite free environment made it perfect to grow Malbec. Improvements in technology and growing methods made the Malbec into fine wine. In the 1990s, Argentina started to focus on exporting its wine. This proved to be a tremendous success, with fine wine exports increasing from $7.5 million in 1990 to $120 million in 2001. Since most of the wine exported was Malbec, the once-forgotten grape proved instrumental in Argentina’s economic recovery.

Argentina Today

The Malbec miracle had impacts far beyond the wine industry. Argentina now had a reputation for producing fine wine. This opened the doors for foreign investment and tourism. People all over the world wanted to visit Mendoza. With this new identity, as the world’s premier country for Malbec wine, Argentina’s economy continued to grow despite numerous setbacks including the 1998-2002 Great Depression. Upon Argentina’s economic recovery, the poverty rate decreased dramatically from 44% in 2002 to 16% in 2007.

The strong wine industry continued to create jobs and ensure global interest in the country. Now, Argentina is the fifth-largest wine producer in the world. The country also maintains its title as the Malbec grape producer, growing more than 75% of all Malbec in the world. This success can be largely attributed to Mendoza, which produces about 80% of Argentina’s wine.

Looking Forward

The Malbec miracle has completely revitalized Argentina’s image throughout the world. Mendoza’s economic success has largely reduced poverty for everyone in the country. Although Argentina is no longer the star many thought it would be, dramatic events like the Malbec miracle have changed things for the better. Argentina now has a significant place in the global market, with its wine industry leading the way. Mendoza remains the gold standard for Malbec wine, with the once-forgotten “poor man’s grape” having become the miracle that made Argentina into what it is today.

Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

Spotlight on Save the Children
“We cannot run the risk that they should weep, starve, despair and die, with never a hand stretched out to help them.” These were words spoken by Eglantyne Jebb, an Oxford-educated teacher and sociologist, who in 1919, founded the Save the Children Fund in the U.K. Her mission was to aid children in war-ravaged central Europe, believing that the defenseless cannot be left to moral and physical ruin. Jebb’s vision inspired a group of Americans who established Save the Children in the United States in 1932.

Their first goal was to help the children and families struggling to survive during the Great Depression in the mountains of Appalachia. Today, Save the Children USA transforms the lives of children in more than 120 countries, providing families and communities with the tools needed to escape the reigns of poverty.

Save the Children is the leading independent organization focusing on children in poverty both in the United States and around the world. They are quick to provide food, medical care, education, and recovery programs to communities struck by disaster. Meanwhile, the organization works every day to resolve the struggles of poverty, hunger, illiteracy, and disease.

In 2012, Save the Children USA reached 78 million children, surpassing their goal of helping 74 million annually. Their commitment to children has made them highly respected among other nonprofit organizations. The most recent rating for Save the Children by the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP), a nonprofit charity watchdog that rates approximately 500 major U.S. charities, was an ‘A+’. They further earned the 2012 Top-Rated Award by Great Nonprofits and received an overall rating of 4 out of 4 Stars by Charity Navigator, among other awards.

Save the Children works side-by-side with children, parents, caregivers, community members, and members of their partner organizations to make sure that programs are carried out effectively. Their focus areas include child protection, child survival, education, emergency response, health and nutrition, HIV/AIDS, and hunger and livelihoods.

There are many ways to get involved in the mission of Save the Children. The organization has made it easy to donate in ways that work for you, such as giving online, donating in honor of friends and family, fundraising, or sponsoring a child. Save the Children assures that your gift is used wisely and efficiently. In 2012, 89% of all expenditures went to program services. That percentage is an average for all of Save the Children’s programs worldwide.

– Ali Warlich
Source: Save the Children, CNN
Photos: Global Giving