Story: Natural balance

With a feeling for nature

In the Mara Valley, a family business combines organic farming and innovative ideas.

Organic farming and innovation make the Azienda Bianchi stand out. Brothers Gabriele and Martino learnt all about plants and the power of the moon at a young age, but they’re best known for their unique drink that’s conquering the young gastro scene.

THE CHARACTER

Gabriele e Martino Bianchi, managers of the Azienda Agricola Bianchi

Gabriele e Martino Bianchi, managers of the Azienda Agricola Bianchi
Sambì is a Mendrisiotto tradition, which risked being forgotten.

In a family business, every member of the household has a specific role – and the geese currently trying to cool down in the water trough are no exception. “They keep the grass under the vines short”, explains Martino Bianchi, a young winemaker who runs the Azienda with his brother Gabriele. Hens also run around the garden and 4 sheep graze on the meadow. Bees make honey in 5 different places.

THE COMPLETE STORY


Proximity to nature, the animals and organically grown products are the main principles of the vineyard on the outskirts of Arogno, nestled on a slope in the Mara Valley, an idyllic little tributary valley close to Lake Lugano. The organic business was started in 1998 by Marcy and Alberto Bianchi who passed on the reins to their sons almost a decade ago but still help out to this day. Wine, grappa and honey are some of Bianchi’s specialities. But it’s one of their grandmother’s old recipes that has helped the brothers conquer the local gastro and nightlife scene. 
 

“Sambì is the name of our fermented elderflower drink with 4.2% alcohol”, says Gabriele, who – as an oenologist – is responsible for the technical production. This sweet sparkling drink is particularly popular among young people and can be enjoyed either on its own or as a mixer. What started as a project to keep a Mendrisiotto tradition alive has become a major source of income: “We make 30,000 bottles a year.”

The elderflowers are harvested in May and June and mixed in a huge vat with water, sugar and lemon juice. The mixture is left to steep for 2 weeks before being filtered and transferred to bottles for further fermentation.  

A family business means everything you do is given a special value. Every product is produced by our own hands. 

Vines, olive groves and a range of fruit trees surround the Azienda and the family home in addition to the elders. Gabriele plucks at the Americana grape vines on the pergola, the perfect place to enjoy an apéro or for a tasting session. The exact locations of the different grape varieties is carefully planned so the vines get just what they need. The company has had organic certification since 1998. “It’s a matter of health, quality and responsibility. It means we give back to the valley and promote biodiversity.” They were fully aware that sustainable crop growing was much harder work than conventional farming.

Pro tip
The elderberry is a plant known for its many properties and nothing is wasted: flowers, leaves, bark and fruit are used for syrups and jams.
The Azienda Agricola Bianchi
places great value on transparency and demonstrates this with a variety of proposals: tastings and insights into organic farming, visits to the estate and educational activities with bees.
Did you know that the Mara Valley takes its name from the stream that has its source on Monte Sighignola and is the ideal starting point for more demanding excursions to Monte Generoso.

However, the brothers never doubted their career choice for a single moment. Martino finished his training as a viticulturalist at the age of 20 and has been responsible for the vineyards ever since. The distribution of tasks became clear at an early age: “Gabriele was always the expert when it came to aromas. When we’d go to our grandmother’s as kids, he always knew what was for dinner just from the smell”, states Martino. Gabriele is now the oenologist and, as such, is responsible for the wine production – including taste and quality. 
 

Tradition doesn’t exclude innovation, as this family company proves with its constant new ideas. And this includes a very exclusive product that is only available directly from the vineyard itself: Marà del Lago. This coral pink sparkling rosé matures for a year 20 metres below the surface of Lake Lugano. The family is always working on improving their sustainability: “We keep setting the bar higher and higher”, says Gabriele. He means it almost literally, given the importance they attribute to celestial bodies.

Arogno, Val Mara

In addition to making the most of the characteristics of plants and animals, this also includes following the lunar calendar. And the positive effects are quantifiable.

Arogno, Val Mara

“Organic growing means reading the plants and situations and adapting.” 

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