We were honored to interview five outstanding women we deeply admire related to the wine region, who inspire us with their passion, leadership and commitment.
SUSANA BALBO, OENOLOGIST AND FOUNDER OF DOMINIO DEL PLATA WINERY.
How did you decide to enter the world of oenology at a time when it was not a usual market for women?
In fact, I wanted to study nuclear physics at university, but my parents did not allow me to leave Mendoza. And, Oenology is a kind of engineering; it has many hard subjects in common with engineering, so I decided to study this. I was very lucky because my teachers were very passionate, so I was caught up in the magic of making wine and being part of the world of wine. But, I never asked myself if this was a career for women or men. That thought never crossed my mind.
What contribution do women make to the wine industry?
In my opinion, women have a more integrating vision about the industry. Our way of thinking tends to be more holistic, probably because we are used to multitasking, being in charge of the family, the home, and having a job as well. That gives us a more pragmatic and broader vision of this industry. Plus, we are very creative to solve difficulties or to generate products in this field.
What is it like to lead in an industry that is usually led by men?
To lead for me is to be always one step ahead of the rest; and in order to do that you have to be willing to take risks, regardless of being a man or a woman, that´s the truth for me.
How is Argentina positioned regarding wines in comparison with the rest of the world?
Argentina is the 6th world wine producer, it is the 8th world consumer; we have a domestic market that is declining with respect to consumption in other countries. We are at 19 liters per person and hopefully this is the lowest we will be. In the 60’s consumption was 90 liters per person. But there is a reason for this, related to a change in the style of life and also with the introduction of other beverages. People don´t drink only wine and beer anymore. In addition, the chances of drinking are lower because we work longer hours and there are restrictions on alcohol when driving a vehicle or operating a machine, and so on. This has made people to choose to drink higher quality and less quantity. The same phenomenon is happening all over the world, not only here; so Argentina has the same challenges as other countries to make consumers fall in love with wines on a daily basis. Argentina on the other hand is very well catalogued in other countries regarding the high quality of our wines.
What did an association with a luxury foreign fund mean to your winery?
The strategic association with a luxury foreign fund has meant an achievement for me and my team. This shows that we have done things very well all these years to be chosen to be one of their strategic partners.
How did you find the balance to both represent Argentina at International W20 and carry forward your winery as well?
With a lot of work! With a lot of work and a lot of personal sacrifice, including very few hours for my family.
CÉCILE ADAM, FOUNDER OF THE MAGNIFICENT ENTRECIELOS WINE HOTEL AND SPA.
From Switzerland to Argentina, why did you choose Argentina to build a luxury hotel like Entre Cielos?
Argentina attracted us because of its cultural diversity, geography, varied climate and friendly people. We analyzed the opportunities in tourism and fell in love with beautiful Argentina with its varied nature and culture; this makes it an always interesting destination.
We chose in particular Mendoza for Entre Cielos because of its great potential as a high end destination thanks to its majestic Andean landscapes just across from you and its exquisite wines which attract the gourmet and bon vivant spirit. Plus, Mendoza is a beautiful city with very pleasant climate and is always improving on its already good infrastructure.
How did the idea of connecting a luxury hotel with the wine industry come about?
We wanted to create an offer where good living is celebrated in a holistic way. And wine is part of this whole life style approach to the senses. Tasting exquisite wine in contact with its makers and processes, paired with regional haute cuisine in an unparalleled scenery is a superb experience. Travellers treasure the opportunity of this unique, nurturing, and relaxing atmosphere together with the unforgettable memories they take with them. They find relax in the spa and its nourishing body treatments, the outstanding quality of service, the comfort and the mighty landscape. Mendoza is ideal for mountaineering, active outdoor activities and wine tourism. So a Boutique luxury hotel like Entrecielos perfectly matches this destination and its visitors.
In your opinion, in which way do women contribute to oenotourism?
Women clearly make a valuable contribution to this industry. We analyze the market with a keen eye, we are more meticulous about processes, we have a love for the noble and delicate which is remarkable. In the wine tourism there are many women, and this is of the reasons for our excellent, dedicated and careful customer service.
How do you rank Argentina regarding luxury tourism in comparison with other parts of the world?
First, it is necessary to define what luxury is today because there are many definitions. Each destination makes the perception or experience of high end different. I would say that it is a continuous challenge for everybody to meet the demands of a traveller who is accustomed to the best experiences. Our philosophy is to work with local and well prepared people for this segment, so we dedicate time to refine and meet the expectations of all our guests. And we are very proud about our standards in personal interaction, activity offers, creative gastronomy, friendly attitude and education; we are really very competitive.
What is the distinctive feature of the Entre Cielos experience?
In the commercial area, we are always paying attention to tendencies, and we are agile to meet the dynamic expectations of this market segment. And in our offer, a feature that distinguishes us is our unique and awarded hamam and spa, the exquisite and beautiful garden, the incredible view over the vineyards at the foot of the Andes range and our eight new vineyard lofts. When you are here you are literally immersed in the magic of the vineyard. Also, the location of Entrecielos is a very strong point, being so close to downtown and to beautiful Chacras de Coria, surrounded by delightful vineyards and beautiful
NADIA HARON, CHEF OF MONTEVIEJO´S WINERY RESTAURANT
The renowned Spanish chef arrived in Mendoza twelve years ago and became a gastronomic referent in this beautiful destination. She is in charge of Monteviejo´s winery restaurant, in the Uco Valley, which is charge of star oenologist Marcelo Pelleriti.
Why did you choose to be a chef?
I started being a chef long before I formally became one because it has always been my greatest hobby. Eventually life gave me the chance to dedicate myself to what I love the most, and it has meant a wonderful positive change in almost every aspect of my life.
What do women contribute to the gastronomic world which is generally dominated by men?
I have my personal theory about this phenomenon and it is about something more anthropological or ancestral. From the very beginning, women have been in charge of feeding the family while men have considered the work at the kitchen in a more playful way, more festively; and this, together with many other factors, meant that many men engaged in professional gastronomy. This is the main reason I think, apart from the timetables and other circumstances of the job. But I believe that the most creative part, the final result of a dish and even a restaurant always benefits with the touch of a woman because of her harmony and her creativity. I’m not saying that men are not creative, but in general this is a constant.
How do you see oenoturism in Argentina compared to other wine-producing countries?
Argentina is an international referent in oenotourism; there are few places in the world with such a development and variety of proposals in so many wine areas in our country, not only in Mendoza, but also in Salta and other regions. We are very proud and happy about the hard work and great achievements as regards the high standards of oenoturism in the last fifteen years to create fantastic experiences.
What characterizes your cuisine?
My cuisine is very varied, a bit temperamental as I call it; it just depends on the inspiration of the moment when I create a dish. But a constant in my work is that my aim is to surprise my guests generally using simple ingredients. That is perhaps what distinguishes my proposal.
How would you describe Monteviejo’s proposal?
Monteviejo’s proposal finds its inspiration in the beautiful Uco Valley. This is the region in Mendoza where I started to cook and it is the perfect excuse to enjoy the incredible landscapes together with exquisite wines, top level gastronomy, music, and so on. For me, the terrace and the views of Monteviejo is a MUST for every traveller.
CAROLINA FULLER, SALES DIRECTOR AT CORAZÓN DEL SOL WINERY
When did you start your relationship with wines?
I started my relationship with wine when I was a girl in the countryside; I used to drink wine and soda at lunch, but only in the summer. I got back in contact with wine when I had my hotel and chose wines for the travellers, they were the ones who taught me! But my real passion for wine started in Mendoza, thanks to Carlos Pulenta and Meijndert Pon, when we organized the first lodging within a winery; and also through my contacts in tourism from Buenos Aires and my years as the owner of my own hotel in La Cumbre. That´s how we managed to assemble a unique and interesting product in the Uco Valley.
How did you make yourself a place in the world of wine which is mainly masculine?
The world of wine had already started changing when I started, with more women becoming oenologists and sommeliers. So doors had already started opening for women. But it has clearly become much stronger lately, with many more professional possibilities. There has also been a change in winery owners who realized about the benefit of opening their winery doors to women and give us the relevant place we have gained and deserve.
What experiences would you suggest to wine lovers visiting Mendoza?
Nowadays Mendoza offers a wide range of experiences and possibilities according to the preferences of each consumer and the flow of tourists has returned. My recommendation is to vary among different types of wineries in different valleys (covering one valley each day), combining visits to small wineries and large ones; this helps understand and feel the world of wine. Also, for wine lovers it is a great idea to visit us during some exhibition or celebration to really profit from the experience and discover new wines!
Which is the hallmark of Corazón del Sol?
The distinctive hallmark of Corazón del Sol comes from its owner and his passion for wine, so that we guarantee our visitors will have a great experience. We are part of a trilogy of wineries with two sister wineries in Napa Valley and Oregon, USA. Everyone working at this winery perceives from the first moment the respect, commitment and passion that means to be part of Corazón del Sol, with wines carefully produced to surprise you. It is a privilege to work for Dr. Revana and his team.
What is your opinion about oenoturism in Argentina compared to other countries?
Oenotourism in Argentina has grown much in the last 20 years. We are referents as providers of excellent service, hospitality and high end gastronomy. Our style is different from the U.S. and other countries, and we are very proud of our special and unique personality! We will continue growing and raising awareness about Argentina to come and visit our country offering oenoturism programmes of the highest level!
ELIANA BÓRMIDA, ARCHITECT SPECIALIZED IN WINERIES
Co-owner of the Bórmida y Yanzón studio. Since 1988, the studio based in Mendoza has created over 30 wineries, including Salentein, Diamandes, Septima, O.Fournier, Solo Contigo, Vistalba, Atamisque, Pulenta Estate among others; as well as well-known hotels like The Vines Resort & Spa, Alpasion, Posada Salentein, Atamisque Lodge, etc.
You have built several of the most important wineries in Mendoza. Where do you find your inspiration?
We designed some of the first wineries in the world which aimed at identifying their wines with their terroir, incorporating special circuits for wine and culture fans. In our particular case, we focus on a mix of regional character and contemporary designs to create an architecture which is part of the landscape experience. The Andes, the desert and the irrigated oasis are the inspiration for our projects.
Can we say that in each of them there is a personal hallmark of your studio?
In each project we consider the characteristics of the place and the philosophy of the brand, this is fundamental for its image and identity. However, we also protect the identity framework of the “Mendoza Brand”. Each one of our wineries are different, but they have in common the way in which we work on space, materials, and sensations, being functional and inspiring as well.
Why did your studio specialize in the design and construction of wineries?
We specialize in wineries because we have been part of it since the resurgence of vitiviniculture in Mendoza in the 1980s, accompanying the winemakers in their positioning. This fast phenomenon lasted until the first years of this century. We then made a chain of large establishments which truly transformed the winery concept.
How would you compare the design of Argentine wineries to those of the most important wine producing countries?
Argentinian wineries are varied and we cannot generalize, the same as in other countries of the World.
Today, most wineries are to the west of the country (which has traditionally been a wine-producing region, adding value to the unparalleled beauty of the Andean landscape. All of them aim at creating excellent experiences regarding their vineyards and wines, resorting to great original programmes which include art, music, gastronomy, sports, outdoor life… Wineries are very well accompanied by tourism promoters, that is why our wine tourism is well known worldwide; Mendoza is a leader in this always growing movement.
Wine is always THE great host.