On Thursday July 7, 2022 in London, Argentina's first female vintner Susana Balbo received the IWC Lifetime Achievement Award, one of the most important individual awards in the world of wine, from International Wine Challenge (IWC). Recognised for her extraordinary dedication and commitment to the wine industry, Balbo's illustrious career spans a staggering four decades. Beginning in 1981 when she graduated 'cum laude' as the country's first female oenologist, her remarkable trajectory saw her growing to become a pioneer in the export of Argentine wines and ambassador of our viticulture, globally. She is revered across the world as the 'Queen of Torrontés', for being a key player in transforming the concept and quality of wines, particularly Torrontés, Argentina's emblematic white variety.
Susana's wealth of experience, as an expert in her field, includes owning and operating her eponymous bodega: Susana Balbo Wines, a producer of award-winning wines since 1999. A known innovator, she first worked in the Cafayate area of the Salta region, honing her skills for almost a decade, before returning to Mendoza as a consultant to various wineries including Catena Zapata. Thereafter, she established her own winery, initially named Dominio del Plata, and operated along with her son, in the heart of Mendoza's Lujan de Cuyo region. Today, Thursday Food introduces you to a few of the outstanding, high-scoring varietals produced by Susana Balbo Wines.
Susana Balbo Signature Barrel Fermented Torrontés is a 93 point wine, the first of its style, produced in Paraje Altamira, Valle de Uco at 1,150 metres above sea level. It was fermented in French oak, where it remained for six months, lending to a sublime and elegant texture. Delicate floral aromas of this unique strain, comprising 100 per cent Torrontés grape, are reflected along with exotic fruit characters, hints of fresh lime and wild honey. It is golden in colour with bright reflections, while on the palate it is harmonic with a balanced acidity, round, full-bodied, silky and having intense fruit flavours.
Susana Balbo Signature Naranjo Torrontés is also a 93 point wine and represents a new expression of the Torrontés, which harkens back to her early career in Salta. Made entirely in terracotta amphorae (wine aged in clay), this wine stands at the forefront of a growing trend towards the origins of viticulture and ancient winemaking techniques. This 100 per cent Torrontés grape has a soft clear orange colour with coppery highlights from prolonged contact with its skins. Elegant aromas of white peach and white flowers caress the nose and in the mouth, it is sharp with a spicy profile and a palate of pure, clean and very textured notes.
Susana Balbo Signature Rosé scored 94 points and was named "Best Rosé of 2022" by Descorchados, an award it has won previously. This rosé was a collaboration between Susana and her children, who decided to experiment, resulting in a new wine that was fresh, aromatic, with a very seductive pink colour. This blend is 60 per cent Malbec and 40 per cent Pinot Noir, with a lovely pale salmon pink colour and a fine florality, with hints of wild strawberry and cherry on the nose. In the mouth, it shows freshness and clarity, with crunchy acidity, redcurrant and strawberry flavours and a pithy, refreshing finish. This wine is emblematic of the new wave in the style of rosés emerging in Argentina.
Susana Balbo Nosotros Single Vineyard Nómade Malbec has received 99 points on four different occasions for the 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2019 vintages by wine critic James Suckling. Made from 100 per cent Malbec, it also received a 96 point score this year from Descorchados. On the nose, the wine is elegant and layered, showcasing minty blackberries, black cherries, cassis, cigars along with minerals, followed by cocoa powder and a finely tuned balsamic flavour. On the palate, it is a medium- to full-bodied red with wonderful freshness, juicy fruit with a full, complex and persistent finish.
Susana Balbo Nosotros Sofita is a limited edition, 95 point wine made up of 80 per cent Malbec and 20 per cent Petit Verdot that is produced from vineyards located in the Los Chacayes area of Uco Valley, Mendoza. This elegant, yet complex wine is a purplish-red blend of inks that presents aromas of red fruits, raspberry and violets accompanied by notes of black pepper, tobacco and chocolate. The 16 months spent in French oak barrels result in a wine that is complex and balanced on the palate, with soft and ripe tannins culminating in a refined finish.
In April 2022, Susana and her daughter Ana Lovaglio Balbo opened a new luxury hotel, comprising seven well-appointed suites with in-room spas, just 15 minutes away in the village of Chacras. The boutique wellness property's offerings include welcome massages on arrival, as well as access to Mendoza's first air safari which can take you as far as Patagonia, Cafayate or the wetlands in the east. There are also lots of tempting wine experiences on offer, and a top-notch restaurant for dining. The varietals produced by Susana Balbo Wines are the maximum expression of her essence. Elegant, complex and disruptive, they show the unparalleled creative audacity of the first female winemaker in Argentina.