You are on page 1of 6

42-47 Argentina – women Nbgs_Layout 1 31/07/2015 16:25 Page 42

Susana Balbo

TA K I N G
their place
It seems surprising, but as recently as a generation ago, women in Argentina were
kept at arm’s length by the wine industry. But today, as Amanda Barnes writes, the
country is nurturing some of the brightest female winemaking talent in the world

TWENTY YEARS ago, one was hardpressed 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

42

the role that many of the so-called “fairer
sex” now play in the industry.
This list looks at some of the female
trailblazers in the industry, in particular
some of the up-and-coming young female
winemakers who are making their mark
in Argentina.

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.

42-47 Argentina – women Nbgs_Layout 1 31/07/2015 16:25 Page 43

argentina: wo men in wine
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 means 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,
and Balbo is now coined “the Queen of
Torrontés” for her work with Argentina’s
native white variety there. Having proved
her deserving place in a “man’s

So adamant is Balbo to see a change of
wind for women and politics that she is
now running as a parliamentary
candidate in Mendoza. With the
presidency of Wines of Argentina already
under her belt – and a proven track record
of succeeding in the face of adversity –
her ambitions may well be realised.

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, 2014 president of the IWSC,
international guest speaker – Catena’s
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. “One
time I asked our viticulturist to
show me all the places where we
were doing research. At every
place he showed me a different
‘Today it is much easier for
trial, different altitudes, plant
densities, pruning methods,
women to have their place
varieties. Every time I asked him
“Where are the controls?” but I
in the industry’
soon realised that there weren't
any. To me, one couldn’t call this
research, and I said that to our
viticulturalist. He turned back to
me with a big smile and said,
“Laura, you should really dedicate
industry”, she returned to Mendoza as a
yourself to marketing because that is
reputable winemaker and eventually
where we need the most help.”
started her own company, aged 38.
Instead, she founded the Catena
Many women have joined her in the
Institute of Wine with the first Malbec
realms of winemaking but few own a
plant selection in 1995. “Today our
winery. “Today it is much easier for
institute does world-class research which
women to have their place in the
is published in prominent international
industry,” she analyses. “But the current
journals like The American Journal of
political environment makes it difficult
Viticulture and Enology, The Journal of Food
for young women to have their own
Chemistry and the Journal of Phytochemistry
company. They should keep dreaming
among others. And if any winemaker or
though, I have great hopes that the
viticulturalist asks me about marketing
politics of the country will change soon.”

Laura Catena
they know that the answer will be ‘the
best marketing is to make the best wine’.”
Catena’s defiance and attention to detail
not only makes her a standout woman in
the company, but a great migrator of
international knowledge into Argentina
and a considerable communicator of
Argentina to the outside world.

>

43

42-47 Argentina – women Nbgs_Layout 1 31/07/2015 16:25 Page 44

argentina: women in wine

Have women “feminised” Malbec?
The appearance of more women on the winemaking scene might lead one to the
rather simplistic conclusion: that women are responsible 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 oenologists.
Nevertheless, 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 microclimates, 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.
“I think there is a Malbec for different occasions, I don’t believe in a Malbec for
different genders,” Daniel Pi, Trapiche
“The style of Malbec depends a lot on the personality and sensitivity of the
winemaker, not on their gender,” Matias Riccitelli, Matias Riccitelli Wines
“I know of many female winemakers who make very masculine Malbecs! And there
are also male winemakers (perhaps few) who have a lighter hand,” Antonio
Morescalchi, Altos las Hormigas
“Malbec has found an elegance thanks to the respect given to the terroir more than
because of gender… Although without a doubt women have added a bit of
sensitivity,” Mariana Onofri, sommelier, The Vines of Mendoza

Gabriela Celeste

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 began 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.
Consulting for over 15 wineries across
Argentina, her well-respected reputation
is synonymous with her tireless energy
and she is even working on the launch of
her own wine label – Escarlata. “To work
in the wine industry, considered the
activity of men, is a challenge,” admits
Celeste. While she sees the advantages of

44

men not viewing her as competition and
being polite enough to let her speak, there
are particular disadvantages as a female
wine consultant. “You are more exposed
to criticism, which demands a certain
emotional intelligence,” she remarks.
“When it comes to the moment where
you have to take decisions, it is difficult to

explain and make a masculine world
understand. Interpersonal relationships
are important and taking assertive
decisions can be confused with
the authoritarianism of a
woman.”
It takes a strong woman to
convince an industry that she
wears the trousers. But Celeste
to
does it with grace.

‘You are more exposed
criticism, which demands a
certain emotional intelligence’

42-47 Argentina – women Nbgs_Layout 1 31/07/2015 16:25 Page 45

argentina: wo men in wine

Andrea Marchiori

ANDREA MARCHIORI
Having grown up running around her
father’s vineyard in Lujan de Cuyo,
Andrea Marchiori’s choice of 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 expensive wines.
Having grown from 1,500 cases to
100,000 cases in just over a decade (and
launched a side project with her husband,
Marchiori-Barraud), Marchiori knows a
thing or two about making a wine
business successful. And while she is
adamant that her experience has been
privileged for working in environments
where women were accepted as equals,
she admits there were challenges to face.
“My whole career has always been with
men,” she reflects over the last 20 years.
“When I started working in a winery as a
young woman, some men found it

shocking to have a woman telling them
what to do. You always have to keep in
mind that you are a woman and that you
are there because you have a capacity.
And once men understand that, they
respect you too.”
In Argentina Marchiori has proved her
capacity as a woman, and a winemaker.

LAURA PRINCIPIANO,
Today Bodega Zuccardi is one of the most
exciting operations in Argentina. A large
family winery with young gun
winemaker Sebastian Zuccardi at its head,
it has brought forward innovations,
finesse and has just opened a landmark
new winery in the Uco Valley. Behind
every great captain 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 the winery’s experimentation
lab, Principiano feels blessed to have
landed a great job early on in her career.
“I’m very privileged to work in a
company with a family that takes
importance in people and not in their
gender,” she comments. Although
fortunate, Principiano is a hard worker
and has been instrumental in the progress

Laura Principiano
of Zuccardi’s style and critical
acknowledgements. Her work in the
development and experimentation lab
have led her to take charge – along with
Sebastian – in the production of the
winery’s top wines. “Laura is much more
than an agronomist or winemaker, her
perception and passion for wine transpass
the technical barrier,” says Zuccardi.
“I find it difficult to think of what we
would be doing without her. Wine needs
more people like Laura – she is
undoubtedly one of the references of
Argentina.” In this case, Principiano
proves that the “right-hand-man” can be
just as deservedly a woman.

>

45

42-47 Argentina – women Nbgs_Layout 1 31/07/2015 16:25 Page 46

argentina: women in wine

Andrea Muffato

ANDREA MUFFATO
Coming into winemaking after having
four children, Muffato 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 four 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,”
she says.
Muffato, 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.
Muffato is one of the most daring female
winemakers at the moment. Her plan to
take the whole family, including her 18year-old son and protégé, to Spain for a
harvest this year, proves that you can
juggle winemaking and family life, and
have fun doing it.

VALERIA ANTOLÍN

Hailing from a winemaking family, it
wasn’t a surprise to Antolín’s father,
himself a renowned sparkling wine
producer, that she wanted to study
agronomy and winemaking. What
might have been somewhat
surprising is that her female
cousin and younger sister
soon followed suit.
‘I find it difficult to think of
After working in working at
Viña Cobos, Antolín settled into
what we would be doing
a full time role in 2003 with her
without her. Wine needs more current employer, Piatelli, where
she climbed her way to become
people like Laura’
head winemaker for both their
Mendoza and Cafayate wineries.

46

Valeria Antolín
Antolín has been significant in the
development of the brand and in
particular surprised many with her take
on Torrontés. “I always saw that
Torrontés was very nice in the nose but in
the mouth it was a little light for me, so in
2005 I decided to do some barrels with
Torrentés and we continue doing it every
year,” she says about her partially oaked
expression which bucks the trend for this
usually lightly styled variety.
Stepping into winemaking as a woman
was no challenge for Antolín, who made
her first wine with her father at 15 years
old; the greater challenge has been
managing motherhood and a full time
job, which she does with aplomb.

42-47 Argentina – women Nbgs_Layout 1 31/07/2015 16:25 Page 47

Paula Gonzalez

PAULA GONZALEZ
One of the youngest female winemakers
in the profession, 25-year-old Paula
Gonzalez is second winemaker at Bodega
Casarena in Luján 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,” she predicts.
With an early start to her career as a
winemaker and under the guidance of an
experienced team, like the lesser
discovered varieties of Argentina,
Gonzalez is one of the yet undiscovered
new generation of female winemakers that
will undoubtedly make an impression in
the future of Argentine wine. db

Paula Borgo

PAULA BORGO
Head winemaker for Spanish-owned
Bodega Septima, Paula Borgo is
responsible for the still 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. I have many happy
memories with a glass of wine in my
hand, and then the passion transformed
into an obsession, a study, a quest for
perfection, and lots and lots of work!”
Nowadays Borgo travels around the
continent and further afield as not only
the winemaker for Septima, but a female
spokesperson for the wine industry.

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,
herself the daughter of one of Argentina’s most renowned vignerons Nicolas Catena.
The final spot on our list of women in wine is dedicated to the many women who are
making the industry what it is today.
Among the female winemakers and agronomists to watch are: Lorena Mulet
(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).
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.

47