Argentina’s Vin Fatale: Susana Balbo

“Wine is in our culture. We have strong European roots,” explained Susana Balbo, the owner and winemaker at Dominio del Plata in Argentina’s Mendoza region. She’s also Argentina’s first female winemaker and a dynamic figure on the international wine scene.

Balbo grew up surrounded by vineyards in the Andes Mountains, where her father managed a vineyard.  For 25 years she worked with winemakers around the world before starting her own business in 1999. Although Balbo’s wines have long been exported to the United States, she recently visited Ohio for the first time and showcased some of her inventory at Delmonico’s Steakhouse in Independence.


For a vintner pioneer in the land known for beef, gauchos and machismo, Balbo is totally unassuming. When asked what challenges she’s faced being the first female winemaker she responded, “When you have a focus, you don’t care what other people think.”


Her focus comes through in the glass. Balbo is known as the “Queen of Torrontes,” a grape widely grown in Argentina that produces a light-bodied white with intense floral aromas. But her reds drew praise from every corner. The Crios Rosé of Malbec, 2011, is refreshingly dry with flavors of wild strawberries and cranberries.


My personal highlight was the Crios Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009, from the Mendoza appellation. Aged nine months in French and American oak, it has ripe plum and black currant flavors that make it excellent for pairing with beef, pasta dishes or roasted vegetables.


When asked what makes her wines unique Balbo says, “Balance and elegance.”  Achieving balance among acidity, alcohol and flavors is what Mendoza’s dry, Continental climate affords.


She also likes the soil – sandy and stony with some clay. Another advantage is man-made: “Through this magical tool of irrigation, we can manage the ripening.”


Everyone at Delmonico’s that afternoon agreed Balbo’s wines were just ripe.


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