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Susana Balbo winemaker: ‘Argentina producers are finally making Malbec for themselves’

Edgardo Del Pópolo, general manager and grower at Susana Balbo Wines in Argentina, believes that a more modern, fresher style of Malbec, leaving market expectations at the door, is how the region will make truly great wines.

'Argentina producers are finally making Malbec for themselves'
Edgardo del Pópolo with Susana Balbo, Ana Lovaglio and José Lovaglio

Del Pópolo has been working for Susana Balbo since 2013, with an enological team headed by Balbo herself. He is responsible for the terroir-driven wines of the BenMarco range, which includes the first organic Malbec released by the brand.

Del Pópolo, who graduated as a viticulturist in 1992, believes that the new style of Malbec which has been emerging over the last decade is a “natural movement in Argentina”.

Looking back 10 to 15 years, he told db during ProWein that “in the past, Malbec producers used to be focused on market expectations,” creating mass-produced jammy red wines.

For Del Pópolo, things began to shift during the 2013 vintage in Argentina, when producers “started making Malbec for themselves.” Winemakers transitioned from heavy use of new oak to a more minimal intervention style, letting the fruit shine without masking them.

BenMarco wines, for example, now undergo steel tank fermentation, and are aged with no new oak. The third organic vintage of Susana Balbo’s first organic Malbec, made using no sulphites, has now been released with a limited run of 12,000 bottles.

“Wines are made today with a different philosophy,” Del Pópolo says. “Winemakers are trying to keep what the landscape tells us, showing their identity and then showing them to the market.”

The US remains one of the largest markets for Argentine Malbec, and producers remained fearful that consumers would not be ready for wines being made in the new style.

But for Del Pópolo, it was all about shifting perspective, and showing consumers that wines aged without new oak can still age well in the bottle.

He asks: “Why make wine following a recipe?”

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