Women in Wine: Argentina

Twenty years ago, it was hard-won to find a female working in the wine industry in Argentina, let alone a female winemaker. But today women are taking their place in the sector and this year’s Argentina Wine Awards boasted an all-female tasting panel, bringing to light the role that many of the fairer sex now play in the industry. This feature for The Drinks Business looks at some of the female trailblazers of the industry, and also some of the up-and-coming young female winemakers of Argentina.

Susana B, 21. Susana Balbo

Susana Balbo is unquestionably one of the most remarkable women in wine, not only in Argentina. Head winemaker and owner of Dominio del Plata, Balbo is at the top of her game, but reaching these heights as a woman was not easy. Hardships began early for young Balbo who had wanted to study Physics, but – due to the military dictatorship – had to pick a degree closer to home (which in Mendoza, is winemaking).

Even the early 80s, Balbo wasn’t the only female in the class – out of 33 classmates, 17 were women. She was however the only woman to graduate, making her the first female winemaker in South America. She puts the low completion rate down to having to take a late night bus (past the 10pm curfew), creating more vulnerability for women during the tyrannical military regime.

Life wasn’t easy as the first female in the profession. “I couldn’t get a job in Mendoza, I was rejected from many applications because I was a woman,” she confesses. It wasn’t until an opportunity arose in Salta, that she got her first job in a winery – partly because some of the hiring process was made by a headhunting firm in Paris, France.

Her move to Salta was indeed fateful…

For the full article, you can view the PDF here.

 

Laura Catena DB 22. Laura Catena

One of the greatest spokespersons and ambassadors for Argentine wine abroad, Laura Catena splits her time between San Francisco where she is a doctor, and Mendoza where she works in her family winery, Catena Zapata. Author of Vino Argentino, Chair of IWSC in 2014, international guest speaker – Catena’s communications achievements are endless.

Although she might already be considered as reaching a par with her industrious father Nicolas Catena in terms of promoting Argentine wine, it is her work as a scientist that is most remarkable. When she started working at the winery in 1995, there were few women and convincing a largely male team that she – a young female graduate – knew better when it came to vineyard research, was a challenge…

For the full article, you can view the PDF here.

 

Gabriela Celeste3. Gabriela Celeste

While female winemakers are growing in number, female wine consultants are still a very rare breed. After meeting the French consultant winemaker Michel Rolland while working in Trapiche in 1996, Celeste begin her international education in wine and is now the right hand of Rolland as his partner at their consultancy firm, EnoRolland. Though she works under the Rolland brand as a consultant, Celeste has made a name for herself in her own right…

For the full article, you can view the PDF here.

 

Andrea Marchiori4. Andrea Marchiori

Having grown up running around her father’s vineyard in Lujan de Cuyo, Andrea Marchiori’s choice in the career was a natural one. Completing her winemaking degree as the only woman in the class, she headed to Sonoma in the US with her husband and fellow winemaker, Luis Barraud. There they met flying winemaker Paul Hobbs and while overseas began talks about a partnership back in her hometown of Mendoza. Now, with Hobbs and Barraud, Marchiori fronts a successful winery – Viña Cobos – where you can find some of Argentina’s most acclaimed, and most expensive, wines…

For the full article, you can view the PDF here.

 

Laura Principiano5. Laura Principiano

Today Bodega Zuccardi is one of the most exciting investments in Argentina. A large family winery with young gun winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi at the head, it has brought forward innovations, finesse and has just opened a landmark new winery in the Uco Valley. Behind every great captain through, there is a great skipper. And the skipper of Zuccardi’s vessel is a woman – Laura Principiano. Plucked straight out of University to join Zuccardi in their experimentation lab…

For the full article, you can view the PDF here.

 

Andrea (gen del alma)6. Andrea Mufatto

Coming into winemaking after having four children, Mufatto juggles motherhood with her growing career as the second winemaker for Zorzal and Head Winemaker for the family winery Gen del Alma. “Being a winemaker and a mother of 4 children is complicated! But winemaking is a lifestyle for us as a family, and with Gen del Alma we get to live our dreams and make these wines.”
Mufatto, like her brothers-in-law (winemakers Matias and Juan Pablo Michelini) and husband Gerardo Michelini, is a fan of a leaner, fresher style of wine with high acidity and more natural winemaking methods. Her wines focus heavily on playful co-fermentations, like for example Ji Ji Ji: a slightly madcap carbonic co-fermentation of Malbec and Pinot Noir…

For the full article, you can view the PDF here.

 

Valeria, Piattelli7. Valeria Antolin

Coming from a winemaking family, it wasn’t surprise to Antolín’s father (a renowned sparkling wine producer) that she wanted to study agronomy and winemaking. What might be somewhat surprising is that her female cousin and younger sister soon followed suit! After working in working in Viña Cobos, Antolín settled into a full time role in 2003 with her current employer, Piatelli, where she climbed her way to Head Winemaker for both their their Mendoza and Cafayate (Salta) wineries. Antolín has been significant in the development of the brand and in particular surprised many with her take on Torrontes…

For the full article, you can view the PDF here.

 

Paula Borgo8. Paula Borgo

Head winemaker for Spanish-owned Septima, Paula Borgo is responsable for the wine and sparkling wine production of one of the bigger wineries in Mendoza. Her path in the industry also began through family: “My relationship with wine is due to my father, he is an agronomist that is very well connected to the sector,” says Borgo. “As a young girl, the countryside, the vineyards and wine, accompanied me through to my adolescence…

For the full article, you can view the PDF here.

 

Paula Gonzalez9. Paula Gonzalez

One of the youngest female winemakers in the profession, 25-year-old Paula Gonzalez is second winemaker at Bodega Casarena in Lujan de Cuyo. Working under Head Winemaker Bernardo Bossi Bonilla, Gonzalez has played a hand in the development and launch of their latest DNA range and single vineyard range. While Malbec is still the flagship of the winery, it is a different variety that is the apple in Gonzalez’s eye: “Malbec is one of the most important varieties for us, but I think Cabernet Franc is one that is going to explode…

For the full article, you can view the PDF here.

10. Other Women in the Industry

“There are many families with daughters who want to work, and because family wineries and vineyards are such a big part of the industry it is inevitable that there will be more women working in every aspect of winemaking,” says Laura Catena, daughter of one of Argentina’s most renowned vignerons Nicolas Catena. Laura is, like many women in the industry, the new female offspring and offering in Argentine wine. Spot 10 on our list of women in wine is dedicated to the many women, and daughters, who are making the industry what it is today.

Female winemakers and agronomists like: Lorena Mulet (featured in last year’s 10 Winemakers to Watch, Cruzat), Carola Tizio (Vicentin), Soledad Vargas (La Anita), Estela Perinetti (LUCA), Silvia Corti (Argento), Romina Carparelli (Margot), Celia Lopez (Navaro Correas), Victoria Pons (Melipal), Pamela Alfonso (Altavista), and Victoria Prandina (Trivento) among others.

Of course for all the daughters moving into the industry as career women, the industry would never have developed to such an extent if it weren’t for the dedicated wives and mothers too. Many of whom have not only supported their husbands in a gruelling and time-consuming career, but raised a family that respect and admire their wine heritage.

Women also occupy some of the top sommelier and educator positions in Argentina, notably including Marina Beltrame (the first female sommelier in Argentina, and founder of Escuela Argentina de Sommelier) and Paz Levinson (currently Best Sommelier of the Americas).

Wine is no longer the realm of only men in Argentina, women are an increasingly integral part in the offices, the sales rooms, the restaurants, the laboratory, the winery, and the field.

By Amanda Barnes

Have women ‘feminised’ Malbec?

The appearance of more women on the winemaking scene might lead one to the rather simplistic conclusion that women are responsable for making Argentine Malbec more ‘feminine’. This would be doing a great disservice to all the male winemakers in Argentina, and also generalising about the winemaking style of female winemakers. As Argentina becomes more worldly in taste and experience, its Malbec has seen a great diversity of expressions in recent years: from more ‘masculine’, meaty Malbecs, to more ‘feminine’, ethereal and elegant Malbecs. Instead of gender, the different styles of Malbec are representative of different soils and micro-climates, changing winemaking tendencies, and the different personal tastes and experience of each maker. Often female winemakers make big and bold wines, and undoubtedly many male winemakers are the source of some of the most elegant Malbecs being produced in Argentina right now.

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