Crios de Susana Balbo Rose of Malbec 2006 Tasting Notes
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Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé of Malbec 2006 Tasting Notes

Susana Balbo, who produced this elegant rosé, is something of a legend in Argentine winemaking; Balbo, in fact has become so prominent that she consults for wineries all over the world during her off-season, which is the Northern Hemisphere's on season. After many years of winemaking work in Cafayate province in Argentina's north, Balbo moved down to the better-known (to us) Mendoza region to work for Nicolás Catena, before branching out to found her own Dominio Del Plata winery with husband Pedro Marchevsky. Under the premium Susana Balbo label the winery produces Malbec, Cabernet and Brioso (a high-end blend of Bordeaux grapes).

Balbo's “Crios de Susana Balbo” line is carefully named. The word “crios” in Spanish translates, somewhat colloquially, to “kids,” or “children,” the connotation being that these progeny are carefully and lovingly reared. The line (including this Malbec Rosé, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Syrah-Bonarda, and a white Torrontes) is less expensive and evidently less mature than the Susana Balbo wines, and yet nurtured with the same level of care and concern, as is evident in this $11 wine. The Crios wines, whose labels show interlocking hands representing Susana and her two children, are meant to be consumed fruity and young.

This rosé is generated from 100% old vine (15 year average age) ungrafted Malbec grapes grown at an altitude of approximately 1000 meters, about 3,300 feet; the grapes are hand-picked. The wine is unoaked and subjected to minimal filtration. The color is deep as rosés go, nearly purple; your eye can truly appreciate the backbone allowed by the Malbec. On the nose raspberries definitely lead, with a concomitant note of fresh strawberry jam and a little cherry to back it all up. You expect red fruit and you get it, along with a little prickly white pepper on the nose.

The palate on this rosé nicely echoes the aromatic notes, balancing the acidity with a touch of sweetness and a little appropriate jam to result in a clean finish that gets the job done. It makes no pretense and yet has tangible character; call it “presence” for want to a better term. I cannot say strictly that I detect notes of earth or any kind of minerality, but when you taste this wine you get a definite sense you are enjoying an honest product of agriculture.

But enough wine-talk. I think Susana Balbo would agree that her “offspring” in this case should not be subjected to too much rigor; the key is whether or not I like the wine, and I certainly do, since it is exuberant and elegant at the same time. That said, if these “Crios” wines are truly children, they seem uncharacteristically well-behaved.


Verdict: Labor of love
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Rosés are coming back, and for this very reason, you need to remain cautious and stick with the best. If you find something you like, buy six, and drink them this year.

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award
James Beard Award Nominee Elliot Essman

food writer Elliot Essman James Beard Foundation Journalism Award

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Argentine winemaker Susana Balbo
Argentine winemaker Susana Balbo.

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