Many New World wineries were founded by European immigrants. In South America -- just as in Napa and Sonoma valleys -- many of the wineries have been established by Italian immigrants who brought their agricultural heritage with them and planted vines in fertile soils abroad. Valentin Bianchi was one such immigrant. He came to Argentina from Italy in 1910 with a strong desire to succeed and a penchant for hard work.
By 1928, Bianchi had built a successful business empire in Argentina, and his ultimate dream was realized when he established his own vineyard and winery, originally called El Chiche. In 1934, his wines were awarded the Maximum Quality Prize at the Official Wine Exhibition and Contest, and the winery began to thrive.
In the mid-1980s, Bianchi's grandsons began to take on prominent roles in the company. In 1996, the winery hired noted California winemaker Robert Pepi, of Napa Valley's famed Robert Pepi Winery, as a consultant to introduce new techniques while maintaining the wines' Argentine character. Pepi's expertise in vineyard management as well as winemaking has played a key role in Bianchi's continued success and worldwide appeal. Today, the third generation is now running Valentin Bianchi S.A., where they continue to deliver quality wines that express the terroir of Argentina.
Here are a few of the New World wines with Old World charm from the extensive portfolio of Valentin Bianchi. Retail prices are approximate.
I would never have believed it if I had not tried it myself, but pouring the well-chilled nonvintage Casa Bianchi New Age White Wine ($8) over ice and then adding a squeeze of lime makes an amazingly refreshing aperitif. A blend of 90 percent Torrontes and 10 percent Sauvignon Blanc, the citrusy-based wine provides a wonderful backbone for flavors of peach and nectarine to shine through. The slight fizz gives a revitalizing boost to the palate. QPR 7.5
All of the grapes for the 2011 Casa Bianchi "Elsa Bianchi" Malbec ($11) are sourced from Bianchi's Dona Elsa Estate vineyard in Rama Caida, in the Mendoza region. The grapes are handpicked and hand-sorted before they are crushed and fermented in temperature-controlled tanks. Minimal oak treatment assures that fresh fruit flavors of black cherry, dark plum and rich chocolate comes shining through on the supple, midweight frame. QPR 8.5
Malbec is not the only grape in Bianchi's vineyard. The 2010 Casa Bianchi Lacrado ($11) is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec and merlot. This robust red is one of the most popular traditional wines in Argentina, and it's easy to see why. With flavors of ripe plum, blackberry fruit and earthy red berries on a body of sweet tannins, it is capable of pairing with pork, game and fowl, or simply enjoyed on its own. QPR 8
The 2008 Famiglia Bianchi Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) is a classic cab that can hold its own against many offered at twice the price. Warm days and cool nights contribute to the wine's remarkable balance, and the rich soils provide depth and concentration. Flavors of black fruit, red currants, cedar and tobacco mingle beautifully on the textured palate all the way through to the long, lingering finish. A touch of vanilla on the end is wonderfully charming. QPR 8.5
If you're particular about your wine, then the 2008 Casa Bianchi Particular Malbec ($30) is definitely worth a try. The grapes chosen for this reserve-styled wine went through a rigorous selection process in the vineyard and winery. After vinification, the wine is aged in 100 percent new oak barrels and then bottle-aged at the winery for an additional year. The wine explodes with gobs of black and red fruit, tobacco, pepper and savory notes. The long, powerful finish utilizes just the right touch of vanilla to bring it all together. QPR 9
Note: QPR is a rating system that compares the quality a wine delivers relative to the price. A QPR of 10 is considered an excellent value.