José Lovaglio Balbo Follows in his Mother’s Footsteps to Make Argentine Wine Shine

One of the most well-known names of Argentine wine is Susana Balbo. She has made a significant impact in the wine industry and now her son, Jose Lovaglio Balbo is following in her footsteps. I had the pleasure to meet him recently on a visit to Los Angeles where he shard his story, and his family’s story, as well as his wines, as I wrote in my column in the Napa Valley Register and share here.

If you have ever had a Torrontes from Argentina, there is a good chance that you drank Crios from Susana Balbo, one of the foremost winemakers in Argentina.

“Crios” means “offspring” and Susana Balbo created the wine in honor of her children José and Ana.

An entry level wine, the Torrontes is fresh and crisp with aromas of white peach, grapefruit and white flowers on the nose and bright acidity and minerality on the palate.

The grapes come from both Salta, in the north of Argentina, which contribute the floral characteristics, and Alta Mira in the Uco Valley in Mendoza, which gives the wine its citrus flavors.

Susana Balbo is credited with creating this international style of Torrontes, the only indigenous grape of Argentina, in 1983. What was once a rustic and oxidative wine in the 1970s, Balbo modernized it, preserving the acidity to produce a clean, crisp aromatic wine.

Balbo was the first female winemaker in Argentina. Raised in Mendoza, she had wanted to be a nuclear physicist, but her parents would not allow it. She was groomed to be a wife but fought to study enology. After graduation, no one would hire a woman to make wine in Mendoza, but she found a job in Salta. A challenging place to make wine, Salta is surrounded by rivers and was subject to flooding. But Balbo had nothing to lose. It was an opportunity to run a winery and where her talent and abilities were discovered.

Balbo met her husband and started a family, and they moved back to Mendoza for her children to go to school. By then she had established herself as one of the leading and most innovative winemakers and was consulting for the likes of Catena and Paul Hobbs. After more than 20 years as a consulting winemaker, Susana Balbo Wines was built in 1999 in Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza.

The children for whom Crios was named after are now taking the reins of Susana Balbo Wines. Balbo is involved in multiple projects, including politics, gardening and establishing a home for the elderly. She still manages the blending decisions and investments in the winery but is also taking a step back to let the next generation take over.

José Lovaglio Balbo studied viticulture and enology at UC Davis, graduating in 2007. With an interest in Eastern cultures, he traveled to China where he lived for one and half years, studying Mandarin and working in wine retail. Lovaglio returned to Argentina and in 2011 joined the winemaking team of Susan Balbo Wines. In addition to making the wine, he oversees the distribution of the wines to 27 countries. His sister Ana handles all for the marketing and labels for the winery.

Since Lovaglio joined his mother, he has added a few new wines to their project. Given the popularity of rosé, Lovaglio released their first rosé in 2016 under the Susan Balbo Signature label.

While most rosé in Argentina is a by-product of red wine production, the Malbec and Pinot Noir for the Balbo rosé was picked specifically for rosé wine. The grapes come from the high elevation of the Uco Valley and the pale golden-pink wine is elegant and restrained with hints of strawberry and cherry, and is low in alcohol.

Lovaglio also created the Brioso White Blend, a wine made from Torrontes, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon from old vines as Semillon was one of the first varieties introduced to Argentina. The aromatic wine has notes of flowers, citrus, orange and minerals.

The Susana Balbo Signature Wines also include a 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Uco Valley that is a deep ruby color and has aromas of cassis, black currants, coffee, tobacco and herbs. The 2015 Brioso Red Wine is a Bordeaux Blend made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from Luján de Cuyo that has black cherry, cassis and brown spice notes.

Both are beautiful wines but the real standout is the flagship Nosotros 2011 Malbec, a single vineyard wine hand-selected to produce a wine that has aromas of lavender, licorice, black fruit and spice and is dense and voluptuous on the palate.

Susana Balbo Wines is one of the most important wineries in Argentina, pioneering new styles and showcasing Argentine wines. Susana Balbo has been a trailblazer for Argentina having set the standard on what Torrontes is, and her son José Lovaglio Balbo is following in her footsteps, focusing on high-end blends with the goal of changing the perception of what Argentine wine is. There is no doubt that if you taste these wines, you will see that Susana Balbo Wines are classics.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.