The vineyards of San Rafael, Mendoza, enjoy a lofty position – and not only because of their proximity to the Andes. The hard work and determination of the Bianchi family has helped shape and promote this entire region.
Argentina’s Mendoza Province, in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, is home to some of the highest-altitude vineyards in the world. It is the heart of the Argentine winemaking industry, with the majority of the country’s wineries, where nearly two-thirds of the country’s wine production takes place. It was in Mendoza’s southern winegrowing mecca, San Rafael, where Don Valentín Bianchi bought a small vineyard and opened his winery in 1928.
Born in Fasano, Italy, in 1887, Don Valentín emigrated with his family to Argentina in 1910. The next 18 years saw him tackle just about every job he could find in his effort to establish himself. He worked for the Argentine national railway and a French bank; he was an auctioneer, and then certified as a master builder; he represented manufacturers of agricultural machines, trucks and cars; he was a pioneer in the wood industry; he founded a bus company for travel between San Rafael and General Alvear; and he served as a councilman for the city of San Rafael. Owning a winery was not only a longheld dream, it was about the only thing he hadn’t done.
The name of this small winery that he purchased in 1928 was El Chiche, where he produced a Riesling and a fine red wine known as Super Medoc. In 1934 his wines were declared the ‘Maximum Exponent of Quality’ at the renowned Mendoza Official Wine Exhibition and Contest, and word of Bianchi’s wines spread to Buenos Aires and beyond.
Don Valentín’s son Enzo soon followed his father into the business. In 1951 the company became known as Valentín Bianchi; today it’s known as Casa Bianchi. Enzo Bianchi, with his brother-in-law Aurelio Stradella, managed the company through a period of steady growth, in which they developed new wines: of particular note is Don Valentín Lacrado, a classic blend introduced in 1965 in honor of the founder. Don Valentin’s third-generation heirs continue the tradition of excellence. His grandchildren – Valentín, Sylvia, Raúl and Ricardo Stradella Bianchi – continue his legacy. Just as Enzo had released a namesake wine in honor of his father in 1965, so has Valentin done for his father, with the ultra-premium Enzo Bianchi Gran Cru, released in 1994. In 2012, Raúl released the ultra-premium María Carmen, to honor their mother.
The personality of the terroir is reflected in the wine they produce. Even at about 700 metres above sea level, the vineyards are still towered over by the Andean foothills, which act as a barrier from the damp winds coming off the Pacific Ocean. This unique landscape creates an ideal microclimate, with moderately warm summers with warm days and cool nights. This area of Argentina gets little rainfall, but the vineyards are naturally irrigated with water from the melting snow from the Andes. Two rivers, the Diamante and the Atuel, also irrigate the region and lend alluvial soil to the vineyards.
The three vineyards – Asti, Las Paredes and Doña Elsa – are planted over more than 350 hectares. The rootstock is from Valentín’s native Italy, along with vines from France, adapted to climatic conditions and regional soils to find the best relationship between the site and variety to highlight the virtues of the combinations. Varieties include: Malbec, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir (mainly used for highly awarded traditional method sparkling wine), Syrah, Viognierand Petit Verdot. Enzo Bianchi, Francisco Martinez and currently Facundo Pereirawere and are head wine makers. The work with the vines, terroir and conditions is made more efficient and exact with the use of cutting-edge technology, resulting in wines that have received praise and awards both in Argentina and abroad.
Today, Casa Bianchi’s wines are exported to more than 40 countries. Some of the more recognisable wines are Enzo Bianchi, Particular Bianchi, Famiglia Bianchi, Bianchi Extra Brut, Don Valentín Lacrado and New Age, a popular lightly frizzante wine launched in 1995, which remains a big success, especially in Argentina and the USA
An interesting project of note is the recently launched LEO wine, a joint development between Casa Bianchi and the Leo Messi Foundation, which works to develop projects on education and health care for children with social disadvantages. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the wines – one of which is outfitted rather sharply in a football jersey label – contributes to the Foundation’s cause.
The Bianchi family has a long been involved in community outreach. From the beginning, Don Valentín insisted that the work of his team did not end in the vineyards or the cellar — they were to contribute to works of public good throughout San Rafael, investing time and energy in endeavours to better the region. The Valentin Bianchi Foundation, headed by Sylvia Bianchi, grand-daughter of the founder, is very active in this regard. It’s one of the reasons why Casa Bianchi is looked upon as a true ambassador for San Rafael; they’ve attracted attention to the region through their success, and have given back to the region through their actions.
Three generations later, with the fourth one getting ready, the spirit, passion and personality of Don Valentín Bianchi courses through Casa Bianchi. It’s unlikely that someone would have predicted nearly a century ago that an industrious jack-of-all-trades would be responsible for bringing much of the world’s attention to the now-famous vineyards of San Rafael, Mendoza. The Bianchis probably couldn’t see it any other way than how it happened, of course. As the family likes to say — the best part about history, is writing it.
(Valentin Bianchi Sacif)
Ruta 143 y Valentín
Alto Las Paredes -
Mendoza - Argentinien
Phone: + 54 260 444 9600