Sales of Argentinean Malbec wines are defying tough economic conditions at home and abroad in 2009, the latest figures show.

Argentinean Malbec exports for the first six months of 2009 reached US$108.9m, from US$85.4m in the same period last year, said Buenos Aires-based consultancy group MRT this week. Sales to the US leapt 54% to $57m.

"The crisis has really helped us sell our wines," said Lis Clément of Wines of Argentina, the country's promotional body.

Average case prices fell by 2.2% in the half-year, but Clément dismissed concern that Malbec could become associated with 'cheap'.

Clément told just-drinks: "The Malbec we sell is in the US$10 to US$20 and up price range. We are not at US$5." When the crisis is over people will trade up once more, she predicted.

Malbec is also increasingly popular domestically. August figures from Argentina's Nielsen office show supermarket sales up 16% in volume and 32% in value.