Focus 50: Trip 4, Susana Balbo (Argentina)
Susana Balbo is one of the newest additions to the E&C portfolio, having joined the ranks with a very special launch in February 2022 at the discreet Argentinian hotspot, Sucre Restaurant in London’s Carnaby Street.
As Malbec and Argentina’s wines are increasingly ensconced as the UK’s go-to wines, Susana Balbo’s range offers a more premium expression. Often described as an Old-World-meets-New-World approach to winemaking, Susana has a remarkable sensitivity for terroir, combined with pioneering techniques. Besides redefining what we can expect from Malbec, Susana is known as the ‘Queen of Torrontés’.
If this weren’t enough, Susana Balbo has an awe-inspiring CV: Susana was Argentina’s first woman winemaker, and also the first woman winemaker from Argentina to be hired as a consultant by a European winery. She is a prolific figure in Argentina, having served as National Congresswoman for the province of Mendoza in 2015, and having been voted President of Wines of Argentina for three terms. The Drinks Business named her Woman of the year in 2015, and Tim Atkin named her Winemaking Legend in 2020. If all that weren’t enough, Susana is a tireless activist for women entrepreneurs, having been a founding member of Argentina’s branch of the International Women’s Forum, and serving as chair of the Women’s 20 (a working group of the G20).
Unsurprisingly, this lucky group of Enotrians were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Susana in Argentina. Max Pywell from the Sales Operations team recounts some of his top moments from the trip.
Max Pywell – Sales Operations Executive
From this unforgettable trip to the Susana Balbo empire (!) a moment that will stick in my mind for years to come was the BBQ lunch we had in Valle de Uco, Mendoza. After exploring the vineyards and tasting an array of BenMarco wines in the foothills of the Andes, it was really insightful to hear from the head winemaker (Edy) that the ideal serving temperature for Argentinian Cab Sauv is 14 - 16°C. It felt a far cry from my usual practice of plonking a bottle of Malbec on the radiator and “letting it breathe” before Sunday lunch…
Speaking of lunch, we were chauffeured down a pebbly off-road track to the most idyllic spot for a lunch that was like something out of a Condé Nast party planner catalogue. Being in Argentina, of course steak was on the menu, preceded by black pudding stuffed brioche, braised lamb empanadas and tomato ceviche canapés. Several wines later, (my personal favourite was the BenMarco Expresivo 2020) I was in awe of how welcoming our hosts were.
Having glimpsed Argentinian culture, it was intriguing to hear about practices and history that took me by surprise: BBQs are typically fuelled by wood, not charcoal, most steak is served medium or medium rare in Mendoza and Susana Balbo exports 90% of product.
As soon as we were greeted at the airport in Mendoza, I think we knew we were all in for a treat and wouldn’t want to leave once we’d settled. It’s an area of the world I’ll be revisiting frequently. A terrific country. And what’s more, their wines go one further.
The team's top 3 drinks
|1||2021 Signature Torrontés||These oak barrels are toasted with hot air instead of fire to keep the flavours cleaner, and eliminating the bitterness that taints some other Torrontés. A gloriously rounded mouthfeel with citrus, exotic fruit and a touch of vanilla. Any time we saw a bottle of this open, there was a queue next to it…|
|2||2019 Brioso||A beautiful old-school Bordeaux blend, where the Cabernet Sauvignon is the star, giving structure and cassis fruit, while Malbec and Petit Verdot add depth and mocha flavours. The unsung hero is the Cab Franc, providing freshness and an herbaceous lift. We even got to try our hand at blending our own version!|
|3||2018 Nosotros Nomade Malbec||This wine stormed into our top 3 when we tasted it straight from the barrel, or maybe when we had a 2009 vintage at dinner with Susana. Each year, the grapes that make this wine are selected from a different vineyard, depending on which site is yielding the best quality. This is the pinnacle of Malbec: cassis, liquorice, vanilla, cedar, fine grained tannins and length that goes on for days.|