With a fortune of around $4 billion, according to Forbes, Argentine energy magnate Alejandro Bulgheroni is known for thinking big, and his plans for his rapidly expanding portfolio of global wine interests are no exception. Bulgheroni has invested around $1 billion in wine projects around the globe over the past decade, beginning with Bodega Garzón, his Uruguayan estate seated just to the east of the posh resort town of Punta del Este. While Garzón—and Uruguay as a whole—is a relative newcomer on the global fine wine landscape, the winery has already begun to garner critical interest, with Garzón’s 2015 Uruguay Reserva Tannat ($17 a 750-ml.) ranking 41st among Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of 2017.
In early 2016, Bulgheroni hired Christian Wylie—formerly commercial director for Chile’s Carolina Wine Brands—as managing director of Garzón, a sprawling enterprise that encompasses not only 500 acres of vineyards, but also a luxury club with a golf course, a restaurant helmed by chef Francis Mallman, olive oil production, and other projects. “The investment in Garzón alone is north of $200 million,” Wylie says, and production for 2017 was at about 120,000 cases.
In the U.S., Garzón—and several other brands from the Alejandro Bulgheroni Family Vineyards portfolio—partnered last fall with the importer Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits, which is jointly owned by the Giesen and Oatley families. As part of the agreement, Bulgheroni’s existing sales force merged into the Pacific Highway team. “We’ve taken a focused approach to developing the Tannat, Albariño, and Sauvignon Blanc ($15-$20 a 750-ml.) in the U.S.,” Wylie says, noting that depletions are currently around 8,000 cases and growing by 70%. “More recently we’ve added a Cabernet Franc, a rosé of Pinot Noir, and a Marselan—a Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache hybrid.” The Garzón portfolio also includes a single vineyard tier retailing at $30, and at the top end, the new icon wine Balasto ($100).
Garzón is the crown jewel of Bulgheroni’s wine portfolio, which now spans 21 estates in six countries. In neighboring Argentina, the range comprises the Vistalba, Tomero, and Argento brands, among others, while California holdings include Renwood in Amador County and Alejandro Bulgheroni Estate on Napa Valley’s Howell Mountain. Bulgheroni also has a significant presence in Tuscany, with Dievole in Chianti Classico, Podere Brizio and Poggio Landi in Montalcino, and Tenuta Le Colonne in Bolgheri. “When it’s all said and done we’ll have about 840 acres in production across Tuscany,” Wylie says. Meanwhile, Bulgheroni is active in Bordeaux as well with Château de Langalerie and Château Suau, and in Australia, where he has acquired nearly 120 acres of vineyards in the Barossa Valley—some over 100 years old—to supply his Alkina brand, which has yet to make landfall in the U.S. Overall, Alejandro Bulgheroni Family Vineyards’ U.S. volume is currently at about 100,000 cases.
“There’s a lot going on,” Wylie says. “In the U.S., we now have all our ducks in a row, and we’re starting to aggressively work the market.”