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Exploring Valentin Bianchi: Argentine Wines with Italian Roots

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Federico Nino, Export Manager

... so last night it was so interesting to meet Federico Nino, export manager for Bodega Valentin Bianchi in Argentina for a variety of reasons. Of course, it was quite nice that he was so charming, well spoken, and could address the fascinating issues relating to the export market for wines from Argentina.

Bodega Valentin Bianchi wines are sold in 42 countries in the world ... each of them appreciating the "taste of sunshine" Argentine wines can offer.  The winery was founded by Valentine Bianchi, an Italian transplant who like many of his countrymen came to Argentina in 1910 with big dreams.  If you are a fan of silent films, you may recall that Rudolph Valentino was one such person ... except that he first ended up in New York where he was "discovered" by a Hollywood actress who brought him to Hollywood and the rest became motion picture history ...

... yet I digress.

In the case of Valentin Bianchi, it was not necessarily his Hollywood good looks or his ability to dance the tango that was his key to fortune, but his hard work.

In Argentina, he first worked as a bookkeeper for the local railroad, then a bank, then lumber, then construction, then farm equipment dealership until FINALLY he became a member of the Municipal Council of San Rafael, founded a bus company to connect key neighborhoods, and then in 1928 bought a vineyard and small winery.  The winery, known as "El Chiche," produced a wine that in those days was known as "Super Medoc."  In 1934 his wines were awarded the Maximum Quality Prize at a top Mendoza wine exhibition and fine wine shops in fashionable Buenos Aires clamored to buy his wines and sell them to wealthy socialites.

In the 1950s the company was renamed Valentine Bianchi SACIF, and his sons Alcides Jose and Enzo Arnaldo became active, along with their brother in law Aurelio Strandella.

It's always fun to read family success stories like this, especially for the "new world" since most stories of this nature are rooted in traditional 'old world' cities like Bordeaux, where it's taken a few hundred years for the winery to make a name for itself and come to fruition.

Happily, this has happened more quickly for Valentine Bianchi ...

... a tasting of several of their wines showed the quality level, along with the value for price level for many of their wines.

Okay, so my absolute favorite wines were the top end Famiglia Bianchi Cabernet Sauvignon Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, with grapes from two top vineyards (Asti and Dona Elsa Estate situated in Rama Cafida). The concentration of fruit was incredible, lots of finesse, good complexity, and a balance of fruit, oak, tannins, and acidity.

I also really liked the premium LEO Malbec Premium, which only comes from the Dona Elsa Estate, with lots of rich ripe fruit. This label is a collaboration between Valentine Bianchi and the Argentine soccer superstar Leo Messi's Charity Foundation -- a portion of the proceeds of each sale gos to the Foundation which helps socially disadvantaged children with health care and international development.

A MAJOR favorite was the 2006 Particular Cabernet Sauvignon (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petite Verdot, 7% Malbec) which has to be among my favorite wines of the world. Just incredibly ripe, concentrated grapes, very gentle handling, which resulted in an incredibly elegant style of wines.

Among the "value for the money" wines you just could not beat the Torrontes, a delicate aromatic white wine that comes from the Dona Elsa Vineyards and can pair with a variety of dishes (think sauteed scallops).

Finally, the Bianchi Extra Brut Sparkling NV was so "champagne like" I really needed to think carefully why it would NOT be from Champagne. It was made in the traditional method, which meant buttery "autolytic" flavors like fresh baked bread, and had a very long finish, long lasting tiny bubbles, and a mineral character. In the end, the slight fruity character was the only thing that could give it away, as Mendoza is bright and sunny and Champagne is often grey and cool.

Always great to experience an "overnight success" story that as you can see, began in 1910!

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