Susana Balbo - keeper of the Mendoza region traditions
After graduating, Susana Balbo became the first female oenologist in Argentina and set the tone for her subsequent pioneering career. The past four decades have seen her developing the industry as the unwavering president of Wines of Argentina, advising the most prominent wine brands, and building her own business.
How did susana balbo's oenological career begin?
The first woman in Argentina to ever graduate as an oenologist and become the best in her field, Susana Balbo quickly ran into obstacles while trying to start a professional career. "I learned a lot as the head of the laboratory, but I liked working in the wine cellar. I wanted to make wine, but as a woman, I was offered a job only in the laboratory, " says Susana.
After six months of rejections, she applied for the position of oenologist, requiring three years of experience and knowledge of English at Michel Torino in Cafayate. Balbo says: " It was pure luck because I had a great knowledge of oenology, but I did not know a word of English." Filled with youthful enthusiasm, she went on a long journey to her dream.
Nine years in Cafayate changed Susana's life dramatically: she got married here and gave birth to children Jose and Ana. Professionally, she has dedicated herself to emphasizing the individual characteristics of the Torrontes grape variety, turning it from a table wine into a premium product. And she definitely succeeded.
Return to the roots and the argentine heritage of Susana Balbo
Back in Mendoza, Susana Balbo became the first Argentine oenologist hired by a foreign wine company as a consultant, where she worked for 10 European harvests before becoming a permanent assistant at Catena Zapata.
Despite such success, Susana wanted to start her own project, so she decided to rent an old winery. Two years later, in 2001, Susana Balbo bought 22 hectares of land in Agrelo — the best area for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, her favorite red grape variety.
Leaving a reliable international wine company when Argentina was in full economic crisis was a risky decision, but as an entrepreneur, Susana weighed the risks and started producing small amounts of fine wine, such as Signature, Nosotros, and Crios.
For six years, Susana Balbo lived every moment in a red-roofed winery that was very close to her home. In 2011, once her son Jose, a graduate of the University of California joined her along with her daughter Ana as a business administrator, Susana was able to delegate some of the processes to the new associates. Edgardo Del Popolo came in as CEO in 2013, so today the Susana Balbo Wines winery employs more than 100 people.
"Initially, it was difficult to separate the roles of boss and mother, so I invited Edie as the director. A family business isn't always easy to run - and family is the most important thing to me - but working together is fantastic. We are a team, and each has its own project: Jose leads the export and manages the La Carrera vineyard, while Ana manages the marketing department and our projects in the hotel and restaurant sector," says Susana with pride.
Throughout her career as a winemaker, Susana Balbo has had the opportunity to work internationally. She was the first Argentine woman hired as a consultant to wineries around the world: Spain, Chile, Italy, Brazil, Australia, and California. It was this unique experience that allowed her to always be ahead of market trends and create her own wine business.