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Legendary winemaker Susana Balbo highlights her label's best expressions.
NOT LONG AFTER Susana Balbo became the first Argentine woman to earn a degree in enology in 1981, her boss at a winery in Cafayate, Salta, presented her with a challenge: bring the torrontés varietal to the world. But the wine in Salta didn’t translate well overseas. “I knew I had the creativity to figure something out,” Balbo says. She decided to change the extraction process of torrontés, which typically resulted in sharp, tannic wines. She realized that in using the same enzymes employed to make apple juice, she could extract a fresher juice, resulting in a delicate white wine. Her approach led to a sea change in the export of the white Argentine wine and remains a pillar of Susana Balbo Wines today: new expressions that feel familiar, like the barrel-fermented torrontés: fresh and bright, yet smooth.
Balbo has grown her small startup operation, founded in 1999, to a team of more than 100 employees, now championed by her children José Lovaglio Balbo (winemaker and research and development) and Ana Lovaglio Balbo (marketing and communications manager). Across several extensions of the brand — fine dining restaurants, customized wine tours, and a recently launched luxury-wellness hotel experience, Susana Balbo Unique Stays — the Balbo team transforms countless ideas into reality. But the juice from their esteemed and newly certified organic vineyards remains their primary focus.
Situated in the dry, desert climate of midwest Argentina, weather in the Agrelo and Uco Valley regions can be tricky to navigate. But the grapes benefit from innovative irrigation practices, high altitude, and rich soil. Most crucially, the wine is shaped by the creativity and generational knowledge of the Balbos, whose appreciation and care for the ancient practice come across in every sip. Here are a few of their team’s most highly recommended bottles:
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When she was a winery consultant selling abroad, Balbo noticed that malbec was often considered the only Argentine wine on the market. When she launched her own company, she boldly embraced Argentina’s native torrontés varietal to showcase the country’s broader range, earning her the title “Queen of Torrontés.” Harnessing the elements of the sunny, high-elevated, and dry climate of the Uco Valley and Cafayate regions, she nurtured torrontés to become an elegant, specialty white wine expressed by bright, fresh aromatics and a mineral finish. Pair this with seafood, citrusy salads, or herbaceous and spicy foods. Ready for the next step in your torrontés journey? The Susana Balbo Signature White Blend reveals the blending expertise the winery is known for, combining torrontés with sémillon and sauvignon blanc. SHOP NOW
Harvested from the Uco Valley, the winery describes this take on malbec as a “lighter, more delicate style.” But don’t be fooled by its soft, rosy color. This wine has noticeable body on the palate, giving it just enough heft to carry the subtle hints of spice balancing the strawberry and cherry aromas and flavors. Fresh and dry, with a crisp finish, it’s a lovely way to enjoy malbec without committing to the intensity of the grape’s pure form. Sip it alone, or pair it with chicken or fish. And this wine comes with a cause: For six years and counting, every October, the winery promotes Crios Rosé with special packaging to raise awareness about breast cancer, donating a portion of proceeds to institutions that support research in Argentina, Brazil, and the U.S. For an Argentine rosé interpretation that’s inspired by Provence, look out for the Susana Balbo Signature Rosé, a blend of pinot noir and malbec. SHOP NOW
The Balbo winery describes this as one of their “most cherished” in that it comprises the attributes that the best Argentine malbecs are known for — being sophisticated but approachable, potent but nimble. It’s super juicy and pleasing to drink, but intense enough to savor with a fine meal. These grapes come from the Paraje Altamira estate in the Uco Valley, where sandy soil rich with calcium carbonate encrustations and stones going more than four feet deep support a sweeter, more intense fruit flavor. After 35 days of skin contact, the grape juice is aged for 13 months in a mix of new and second-use French oak barrels. Anticipate a delightful crimson red with berry and floral notes. In Argentina, malbec is practically obligatory with red meat (asado, por favor!), but pull this out for your decadent pastas, too. SHOP NOW
The winery describes Brioso as “a spirited love of challenge,” speaking to their affection for pushing past the elemental constraints of winemaking. This Argentine-style Bordeaux blend corrals the usual suspects and is the go-to for folks who love a big, cabernet-based wine. It features 54% cabernet sauvignon, with malbec, cabernet franc, and petit verdot, all harvested from the Agrelo region where the winery headquarters is based. Enjoy with poultry or gamey red meat. SHOP NOW
The winery calls its Nosotros line the selection of selections, referring to the most premium picks from each vintage, harvested from a single vineyard. A consistent critic favorite (four vintages from different vineyards received 99 points), the 2019 Nómade vintage was named the Argentine Wine of the Year by James Suckling. For collectors, this is an easy yes. Enjoy with grilled or smoked foods, piquant dishes, and hearty cheeses. SHOP NOW
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Osayi Endolyn is a writer, producer, and consultant whose storytelling centers on food, culture, and identity, and merges themes of music, art, and design. A two-time recipient of the James Beard Award, Endolyn’s writing is featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Time, Eater, Food & Wine, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, and The Oxford American. Her book on American restaurants and dining culture is forthcoming.
Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.
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