110 Years of History
Going through the history of the winery Humberto Canale is like traveling throughout the history of the upper valley of the Rio Negro: From its beginnings with the arrival of the railway and the irrigation canals, until the present day, eleven decades and five generations later.
The beginnings of the winery:
The winery originated in 1909, shortly after the conquest of the Patagonian desert (between 1878 and 1885), when its founder, the engineer Humberto Canale, along with other governmental executives from President Roca’s administration (1898-1904) , went through the place to implement irrigation systems in the region.
“The territories we have just gone through, with the help of the railway, will result in the settlement of new populations and industries in a not very distant time. […] Not many years will go by without this Rio Negro valley, similar to the Nile Valley, endowed with equally amazing fertility, turns out into an emporium of production and wealth. ”
President Julio Argentino Roca (1899)
“This experience that I would like to share with you is just a small link in the history of civilization, but it is very important in the trajectory of our family business.
I met my great uncle Humberto Canale when I was just a guy in shorts and he was a mature man with a few white hairs on his head. I remember him living alone in the upper part of the bakery Canale, located in the streets Defensa and Cochabamba, in the heart of the neighborhood of San Telmo.
Every nowand then my mother would order my brother and me to accompany our Uncle Humberto during Sunday lunches. Humberto told us different episodes of the history of the country and about his venture in the distant Patagonia. […]” *
by Guillermo Barzi Canale
José Canale arrives in Argentina in 1860
José Canale, of Genoese origin, arrives in Argentina in 1860 and soon meets Blanca Vaccaro, a descendant of Genoveses whom he made his wife. The marriage was established in Buenos Aires, where their children were born: Juan Bautista, Amadeo Juan, Julio, Herminia and Humberto. In the neighborhood of San Telmo, in defense and Cochabamba, Jose and Blanca opened in 1875 a bakery, the agricultural bakery, which would be the germ of a family venture of dimensions.
Ten years after the foundation, the family made their first major investment: they imported the first machines that allowed them to expand the production. Don José died a year later, with only 44 years. His widow, alone and with her five children, “rolled up her sleeves and took over the business, a business that began to be known for its biscuits and sweet breads. My great-grandmother,” says Guillermo Barzi, ” a very energetic Italian woman, managed to get ahead. ” Their sons studied at the British Academy and only Humberto followed university studies. The rest of his family joined the bakery, which in 1905 was already an industrial establishment. On that year they built the first plant of the Canale biscuits in Buenos Aires city Amadeo Juan Canale, in time, assumed the administration of the business, expanding the business and becoming a corporation. In 1912, the firm added the famous cans factory that accompanied several generations of Argentines. Amadeo Juan Canale, grandfather of Guillermo Barzi, married Teresa Copello. He would be be the only one in the family to leave offspring. His children were: Blanca Geronima, José Manuel, Amadeo Argentino, Manuel Luis and María Magdalena.
Humberto Canale graduated as civil engineer in 1902. Shortly thereafter he was appointed official of the government of Julio Argentino Roca. “There he met the engineer Huergo, with whom he forged a long friendship. Both were officials of the Directorate of Public Works”, says Guillermo, “of a dependency called ‘ navigation and ports ‘. Together they worked on the canalization works of the Bermejo River and together they arrived here, to work in the irrigation works of the upper Valley of Rio Negro. During the incursion in the area they decided to buy land and, since then, actively participated in the development of the agricultural colony. ” It was the time of the awakening of the valley, of the great metamorphosis that would bring green to the desert land. In 1909, Huergo and Canale bought 400 hectares. In 1912 the property already had 200 hectares planted with vines that Canale brought from France. Years later, they planted fruit trees. In 1913, the “Huergo and Canale Fruit-Wine Establishment” was born, with an axis in a winery which was advanced for the time. Soon after, Huergo died and Humberto Canale decided to go ahead with the venture. The company ended in 1930 and Humberto took over the 100% of the company.
By this time, the Canale group was in clear expansion with “The factory of Cookies”, as Guillermo reminds them affectionately. “Humberto had put all his chips here in Rio Negro – says Barzi –, developing the winery and a factory of products linked to the industrialization of local fruit and my grandfather continued with the bakery in Buenos Aires.” One of the strengths of the family business was that both ventures were developed in parallel but they joined in the marketing. During that time the productive matrix of the family was consolidated. Canale began to fruit business in the 1930s. “It was a founding time in the valley, the economy was being organized and Humberto and Juan, as good visionary and Italian industrialists, immediately assembled a project to take full advantage of the production that then, in the face of poor transport, lack of cold and climatic factors, was lost in a high percentage. At first they took the fruit to the sheds of the AFD in J. J. Gómez, but ended up building a shed a few meters from the winery. The intermediate generation, that of my uncles, had to carry the harvesting drawers to the station, where they waited for the wagons that were refrigerated with bars of ice. They went with 10 drawers and came back with 9. That made them decide to enhance the industry, to make canned foods, candies, candied fruits, dried fruit. “
At the same time and in pursuit of diversification, a sawmill was mounted, which produced drawers for the company and for third parties, and started selling cider broth. One of the first administrators of the Canale establishment was Ernesto Tuduri. The engineer Canale was president of the firm until his death, in 1957. In the decade of the ‘ 40 the establishment sold their packed fruit to the firm Hudson Ciovini and Company. By that time, all the industrialized products that were produced in the valley, including the wines (which were fractionated in Buenos Aires), were sold by the firm “Viuda de Canale e Hijos”, which already had branches in the main cities of the country. In 1947 the “Productos Alimenticios Conservados” (PAC) was created in the valley, a company in which the Canale establishment participated with a 56.8% together with an Italian group. In this time, the generational change began in the family business.
Guillermo remembers: “Humberto lived above the bakery, which was already a luxury bakery. Mom sent me and my brother to visit him on Sundays. I was 8, 10 years old, we still used short pants. He was a big man, he used to have lunch with the manager of the bakery called Guastavino. After lunch, Humberto gave us permission to go downstairs. Below was paradise (the bakery). I remember the huge glass jars that kept the candies La Gioconda, the ice cream, the masses. For us it was the great feast… “.
By then, Humberto Canale came to the valley once a year. But the transition with a family member was already carried out at this time. Manuel Luis Canale, Humberto’s nephew, would be the one who would succeed him in the management of the southern company. Humberto Canale died on February 24, 1957. Three years before, the firm had already been established as a corporation, reinvested in new technology and mitigated the impacts suffered by the climate or the economic vicissitudes of the country thanks to productive diversification. The decade of the ‘ 60 came with great changes for the firm. In 1957 the establishment expanded its dryer, bought tractors, a new machine for the cider, a drawer machine and a refresher of musts. The local sales were still managed by Canale SA and the fruit was exported through the firm Tres Ases. In this decade, investments were made to mechanize the harvest and Canale became the first company of General Roca to use bins and all the technology associated with this change.
Meanwhile, Guillermo Barzi Canale, son of Roberto Barzi and Maria Magdalena Canale, lost his father at the age of 16. For this circumstance, his uncle Manuel approached him and invited him to follow his footsteps in the valley. Guillermo says: “I studied agronomy in Buenos Aires. I graduated when I was 21 years old. The choice of my career had absolutely nothing to do with the winery. I didn’t have the faintest idea that I was going to end up here. What’s more, when I graduated I thought about taking care of some land that we had in the humid pampas, when Manuel said to me: ‘ In Rio Negro we have a property. I’d like you to join me, see what we’re doing. ‘ I had been twice in the area but just passing through to Bariloche. Well, I went with him that summer and every other summer that followed that… “. Guillermo arrived to the valley in 1964. “I had no notion of what a company was. That summer I began to internalize the experience, until the activity turned out into a passion and this place into my place in the world. “
Manuel died nine years after that first trip with Guillermo (in 1973). The establishment already had a strong position, continued expanding and was one of the most important agro-industrial complexes in the region. “Little by little I was assuming responsibilities in the company and the circumstances forced me to succeed Manuel after his premature death. I had to assume young, without someone to watch my back. Somehow Manuel prepared me for that, he trusted me, he was my grand Master in business terms. During my first seasons in the winery my uncle stayed in Buenos Aires and I stayed here, with the agronomist that we had then, a barbarian type, Rolando Fraternalli. My other great teachers were my mother, a friend of my uncle Manuel, Julio Matarazzo, a successful businessman in which I was very supportive when my uncle died and, without doubt, I received the teachings of Raúl de la Mota, teacher for much of the industrialists of the Argentine viticulture”.
In 1981 Guillermo took over the firm. It was up to him to enhance the successful family venture. When he tries to enumerate the reasons for the success, he replies: “First, Humberto and Manuel were very lucid and intelligent men and, above all, the hard workers. Because I think that if there is something to be noted is that we never skimp on hard work. We were always at the foot of the canyon. We were cadets, directors, managers, whatever touched us, but we were always on top of the company. Secondly, I think our products have always been of quality and we had a very loyal consumer. All this allowed us, during the worst crises, to stay in the market. But this is not all, because you can work a lot and you may go wrong. There is another ingredient: we were always tidy and austere. This was transmitted to me by Manuel, not to venture more than we could. We never did crazy things, we were consolidating one position and moving on to the next. “
The decade of ‘ 70 will be remembered for new technological changes that came for production: in 1973 sprinkler irrigation was installed, and we allocated 100% of the production to fine wines. so the plantations and technology for this type of production were adapted. The crisis that the valley experienced during the militar dictartorship (1976-1983) impacted the company, but was able to go through it. Yet, a deep transformation arrived. The sawmill had closed, the dryer had been reduced to a minimum and Guillermo was forced to make changes. It was proposed that the establishment should be independent of Canale SA and to consolidate positions in the market, taking a bolder attitude. “In the decade of ‘ 70 we went to the world with some companies from the Argentinian Wine Association. In 1978 we started exporting together with 11 wineries from Mendoza. In 1987 we participated for the first time in a contest in France and we obtained three golden medals. And since then it was the boom. With the 1 to 1 foreign exchange policy (1991-2002) we invested in technology to the maximum so as to live up to the challenge. Last season we had a million and a half bottles of the best wines in Patagonia. “
In 1993 Canale SA was sold to the MACRI group. “The winery was in our hands. The MACRI group commercialized our wines for two more years, but in 1995 we decided to do the marketing for ourselves. By then I was accompanied by my son ‘ Guillo ‘, as commercial director, Juan Garabito and a group of people who accompany us faithfully. A separate recognition is to the outstanding winemakers who passed through our establishment. “
Currently, the Humberto Canale establishment has 5000 hectares, 150 of vineyards and the rest of fruit trees that is sold in the market as an PAI partner.
Guillermo Barzi Canale married Inés García Oliver, with whom he had four children: Guillermo (“Guillo”), Martina, Lucrecia and Germán. “My choice of working at the establishment was conscientious-summarizes Barzi-, I would repeat the experience. It has been a complex but very gratifying activity. I also have the great satisfaction of being today accompanied by one of my children who has already started the generational relay, the beautiful challenge of continuing with a successful family business. “
Interview with Guillermo Barzi Canale – Rio Negro newspaper 08-09-2007