No shortcut to success
Susana Balbo overcame several setbacks—including a failed winery—and tells Lin Weiwen how she bounced back to become one of the icons of the Argentinian wine industry.
When Susana Balbo joined Michel Torino winery in Cafayete in 1981 after graduating with a degree in oenology, she was asked to turn Torrontes—a native white grape used to make cheap blends—into a high quality wine. Torrontes’ disadvantage was its high level of pectin (a jelly-like substance in fruits) that slowed fermentation and caused oxidised, cloudy wines. Balbo discovered that the Canadian apple juice industry had developed pectic enzymes to break down the high pectin levels in their fruit, so she applied the same enzymes onto her grapes during the crushing.
The result was a Torrontes wine that was cleaner and more elegant. “It was a revolution,” recalls the lively 57-year-old Argentinian, who owns Dominio del Plata winery in Mendoza’s Lujan de Cuyo, where the Andes looms large. “Nobody had done something like that [for Torrontes]. But there were people who said my wine was not a Torrontes because it tasted ‘feminine’.”
Balbo had the last laugh. Less than a year later, Argentinian winemakers began to adopt her easydrinking, ‘feminine’ style of Torrontes, and she came to be known as the ‘Queen of Torrontes’ for her instrumental role in revamping the white wine.
Excerpt from the November 2013 issue of epicure.