Women Winemakers in Mendoza, Argentina

     Situated in the eastern foothills of the Andes, Mendoza takes pride as the primary wine region in Argentina. Boasting some of the highest altitude vineyards worldwide, it covers an expansive area of 167,704 hectares (414,405 acres). Surpassing the combined regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Napa Valley, Mendoza accounts for an impressive 70% of the country's wine production. Within the Mendoza appellation, three sub-appellations, namely Maipu Valley, Lujan de Cuyo, and Uco Valley, showcase remarkable diversity in terms of soil quality, altitude, and climate.

     Despite not actively searching for female winemakers while curating this month's wine selections, I was delighted to discover that both of my preferred Mendoza wines were crafted by women. Susana Balbo graduated from Don Bosco University in Mendoza in 1981 and established herself as Argentina’s first female enologist and, since then, has been considered one of Argentina’s top winemakers. Three times her industry peers elected her to the Presidency of Wines of Argentina because of her work ethic, innovative winemaking techniques and dedication to the worldwide success of Argentine wine.

     After working for twenty years as a consulting winemaker, Susana founded her own brand in 2000. In 2001, she broke ground for her winery in Agrelo in the Luján de Cuyo district of Mendoza. There, she makes her Susana Balbo “Signature” line of wines, as well as wines under the Crios, Nosotros and BenMarco labels. Her winemaking approach for the wines that bear her name is to seamlessly apply her human touch and enhance the grape’s innate character.  Over several decades of winemaking in Argentina, Susana has earned a reputation for a pioneering spirit and innovation. She is known for experimenting with various barrel sizes and aging regimens, fermentation of wine in egg-shaped concrete fermenters, and wild yeast fermentations. 

     Jimena Lopez of Graffito has produced wine for almost 20 straight harvests in 7 countries including France, Germany, and California. She also owns her own boutique winery, Graffito, which boasts consistently high accolades from top wine reviewers. She is a passionate, dedicated winemaker with tenacious drive and an unmatched attention to detail. Jimena’s winemaking principles reflect her personality in their sincerity. “In my eyes, good winemaking is simple wine making. It needs to start in the vineyard. The good quality and purity of the grapes is essential. We can have the best technology in the winery, but what you don’t have in the vineyards you can’t have in the cellar. I believe there are three things that make the difference in great winemaking: Know-how, obsession for details, and above all passion.”


The PlumpJack Wine Team

2022 Susana Balbo Signature Brioso White Blend

Region / Country of Origin:   Paraje Altamira, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina

About the vineyards: Susana Balbo and her team strategically chooses to work with grapes from the best geographic indications (GIs) in the regions of Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley in Mendoza. A region with a wide variety and styles of grapes, with vineyards of unbeatable quality make a great asset in the making of premium wines.

About the winemaking:  38% Semillón, 34% Sauvignon Blanc, 28% Torrontés. Sauvignon Blanc and Semillón: Destemmed. Macerated in the press with dry ice for 4 hours (before pressing), pressing, fining for 36 hours. The Semillón was de-vatted to concrete eggs and the Sauvignon Blanc to barrels. Fermented with natural yeasts. Torrontés: Destemmed. No maceration during pressing. Selected yeasts. Fermented in barrels. Once fermentation had finished, the wine was kept on lees for two months to improve the mouthfeel. Final blending and racking to oak barrels for four more months. Aged in French oak barrels (60% new, 40% second-use) for 5 months.

Tasting Notes: It has many aromatic layers, with floral and citrus notes that combine with hints of fresh grass, white fruits and orange. In the mouth, floral, fresh and fruity flavors are in perfect balance with the unctuousness of a successful aging in barrels. A wine with minerality, lasting finish and a great aging potential. "A scented nose with pure golden berries, pears, fresh guava and a hint of grapes and lychee. Bright, high acidity on the palate with a fine, phenolic twist and minerality in the finish. Drink now.” 93 Points James Suckling

Winemaker: Susana Balbo

Price: $27.99 bottle/ $302.29 case

Suggested Food Pairing:

Fish, rabbit, Asian food and spicy and hot sauces.

2019 Graffito Cab Franc

Region / Country of Origin: 

Perdriel, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza, Argentina

About the Winery: Winemaker Jimena Lopez left her corporate wine job to pursue her dream of making her own wine, and she now handles all aspects of Graffito from vine selection to the final blend with a precise attention to detail. She believes so deeply in her wine quality that she puts her fingerprint stamp of approval right on the label.

Jimena made her own winemaking dream a reality when she came across an old-vine Malbec vineyard planted in 1908 in Alto Agrelo farmed by Don Pepe and his family. The balance and structure coming from these old vines are the pillars of Graffito. Jimena also sources grapes from family-owned vineyards in Los Arboles and Vistaflores in the Uco Valley to round out her wines with the perfect blend of fruit flavors, floral notes, and spices. 

About the winemaking: Graffito Cabernet Franc is hand harvested from vineyards that are about 25 years old and have an average vineyard height of 3000 feet that are planted in soil of clay and loam. The wine is aged for 15 months in second and third use French barrels.  This deeply concentrated wine is named after the color of “graphite” and shows beautiful expression and structure.  Only 100 cases are imported to the U.S. so this is a very special wine.

Tasting Notes: Delicate and elegant wine with floral aromas and notes of raspberry, cherry and sweet pepper. Dark cherries, plums, dried herbs, graphite, chocolate and cloves on the nose. Medium-to full-bodied with velvety tannins. Rich core of dark fruit with delicious chocolate and walnut notes. Vivid finish.” 91 Points James Suckling

Winemaker: Jimena Lopez

Price: $25.99 bottle / $280.69

Suggested Food Pairings:

This is a very food friendly wine and pairs perfectly with roasted chicken, lamb gyros or soft cheeses.

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