2008 Susana Balbo Brioso Mendoza
Expert Ratings
RP 93 points
ST 91 points
(Read the full reviews below)
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Susana Balbo Vineyards, Mendoza Rethinking 93 Points (27% off top Under-$35 Cabernet of the Year)

The more we revisit it, 2012 seems to be somewhat of a watershed year for wine buying strategists. Cabernet prices rebounded in Napa, fueled by inventory shortages and a suddenly buoyant high-end market. Discounting of highly rated Cabernets and Bordeaux Blends (93pts and over), so prominent during "The Crisis Years," became a thing of the past.

The Chinese, who fueled 2009 Bordeaux inflation all by themselves, backed off on the perhaps superior 2010s. It seems, the guys from Shanghai finally realized that they were bidding against themselves.

The just-released 2010 vintage in France is the finest in memory. Burgundy (both white and red), the Loire (white), Bordeaux and the entirety of the Rhone Valley turned out beautifully concentrated, chiseled bottles that are drinking beautifully out of the gate -- and will continue age gracefully for a long time.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, a small handful of estates -- most notably, Catena, Mendel, Susana Balbo, Fabre Montmayou, and Casarena -- continued to raise the bar on quality, as they navigated what's surely the most challenging economic landscape on the world's wine trails.

With inflation topping 25%, many in Mendoza opted to increase yields, cashing in on Malbec's popularity. But the names above stuck to their guns, pushing the envelope in the vines and cellars -- and particularly with Cabernet Sauvignon -- taking a deadly serious run at the top dogs of Napa Valley.

This is the story of one of those wines, an Argentine Cabernet that stunned both Parker's Wine Advocate and Tanzer's International Wine Cellar. It would rival Mendel's "Unus" for top Bordeaux Blend honors of 2012. Susana Balbo's "Brioso" would be released at $45/bottle, like "Unus." Just 300 cases made it stateside, but apparently, due to its origin, many distributors blinked.

Not us.

The 2008 Susana Balbo "Brioso" is a voluptuous blend of muscular Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), lush Malbec (15%), a dash of deeply colored and chiseled Petit Verdot, and equal splashes of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Drawn from a patch set at 3500 feet, Balbo hit the jackpot in 2008. Even smaller yields than normal (just two tons per acre), a long, even growing season, and classical Left Bank protocol in the cellar, combined to turn out one of the most stunning bottles of the career of the winegrower we call the Queen of Agrelo.

How many 2008 or 2009 Napa Valley Cabernets priced at under $50/bottle earned 93 points from The Wine Advocate? Zero. How many earned 91pts from Tanzer -- the Great Grade Deflator -- in the same vintages? DITTO. Which brings us to why you should consider rethinking your Cabernet Sauvignon shopping habits in 2013. This year, Napa Valley bargain hunters will be obliged to look elsewhere. The best place to start will be in the high grounds of Mendoza, where Mendel's Unus and Balbo's Brioso are already giving Napa's highfliers all they can handle.

Tasting Notes

2008 Susana Balbo Brioso Mendoza
"The 2008 Brioso is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 10% Merlot, with the balance Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, aged for 15 months in 100% new French oak. It offers up an already complex aromatic array of sandalwood, exotic spices, lavender, tobacco, black currant, and black cherry. Full-bodied on the palate, with outstanding volume and impeccable balance, this lengthy effort will benefit from 2-3 years of additional cellaring and offers a drinking window extending from 2014 to 2023."
93 points -- Robert Parker's The Wine Advocate

"Ruby-red. Blackberry, licorice and sexy oak tones on the expressive nose and palate. Juicy, suave and fine-grained, with an almost confectionery sweetness nicely leavened by harmonious acidity. Finishes with a broad dusting of tannins and excellent persistence."
91 points -- Stephen Tanzer, International Wine Cellar

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