Fifty years ago winemaking in Argentina was not something you would write home about. Overall political and economic troubles meant many producers focused on quantity, growing grapes and making wine for bulk consumption, with over 90% of the wine made in Argentina staying in Argentina. Impressive, as through the mid half of the 20th Century Argentine wine production was the second largest in the world, second to Europe (i.e. all of Europe.)
In the 1990s a desire to grow their export market became a reality, with quality over quantity becoming the focus. Thankfully, the quality mantra had always been the focus of Bodegas Catena Zapata.
With humble beginnings similar to many of Argentina’s beloved wineries, Nicola Catena began Catena Zapata in 1902 after fleeing a famine plagued Italy looking for a better future. He found it in high elevation limestone soils in the foothills of the Andes Mountains of Argentina. He planted his first Malbec vineyard in Mendoza in the same year, focusing on the soils, understanding great wine is made in the vineyard.
Over 100 years of ups and downs, including financial dilemmas to agricultural difficulties, and times that some may have sold out or taken short cuts, but four generations of the family continue to believe that quality is the defining factor in producing Grand Cru quality wine from Argentina.
From a blend of fruit from the family’s high elevation vineyards, managed by the fourth-generation of the family, Laura Catena, Catena Malbec ($24) is textured, concentrated, and dense. Floral aromas of lilac and violets lift from the glass, followed by classic Morello cherry, plum, and blackberry, melding with toasted vanilla, clove, and cinnamon.