One of Argentina’s finest wines is this Malbec from two different vineyards in Mendoza, made by Catena Zapata. It’s deep and dense in colour with beautiful black fruit flavours, and a fine, well-structured palate. Not as dry-tasting as some Bordeaux, but with just as much finesse and fruit intensity, it’s a great shout if you are looking to explore both great Malbec and the potential for high quality that the mountainous vineyards of Mendoza can provide. Decant for an hour before serving, this will drink well without food, or try with a roast or earthy vegetable dish.
Catena Zapata is arguably the most famous and influential of Argentinian wineries, with great wines across the price spectrum. It all began in 1898 when Nicola Catena, current owner Nicolas Catena Zapata’s grandfather, sailed from Italy to Argentina leaving behind his homeland for this land of opportunity. In 1902, he planted his first Malbec vineyard in Mendoza. Although Malbec had been a blending grape in Bordeaux, rather than the mainstay of the wines, Nicola believed it would find a natural home in the Argentine Andes. He turned out to be right! He, his grandson Nicolas and great grandaughter Laura (the current owners) have championed Malbec across the wine industry, and pioneered the concept of high-altitude Malbec, studying the differences in taste and quality at various vineyards in and around the Andes.
The unique label for Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino tells the story of Malbec in France and subsequently in Argentina. The four female figures embody different stages in the history of the grape. Eleanor of Aquitaine, Queen of both England and France is shown next to the bridge in Cahors, the original heartland of Malbec. The next figure, known as the Immigrant, symbolizes the pioneers who left Europe in search of a new home in the Americas, planting new vineyards and developing the wines. The third is phylloxera, the vineyard pest that saw acres of the Malbec grape uproooted across France, leaving the opportunity open for Argentina to develop this variety. Finally, the fourth generation (Laura’s sister) Adrianna Catena is shown, depicting the next generation of the family and the birth of the new cycle.
The grapes were taken from two Catena-owned vineyards in Mendoza: Nicasia (in the district of La Consulta, in the San Carlos sub-region within Mendoza, at 1095 metres of altitude) and the 90 year old vineyard of Angelica (in Lunlunta district, in the Maipu sub-region of Mendoza, at 920 metres of altitude). The grapes were fermented with 20% whole bunch and 80% whole berry fruit, ensuring a fragrant, perfumed character and fine supporting tannins. The wine was then fermented in new French oak barrels for between 17 and 28 days, at relatively low temperatures which ensured both integration of the oak spice characters and freshness of the fruit flavours. The wine was then aged in French oak barrels for 12 and 18 months. Winemakers were Alejandro Vigil and Ernesto Bajda.