Alma Negra 2004
Ernesto Catena, the owner of Ernesto Catena Vineyards in Argentina, is the eldest son of Nicolás Catena of Catena Zapata. A 4th generation winemaker, Ernesto has traveled and lived around the world, and along the way has earned a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and Economy, a Master’s in Design in Milan and a degree in history in London. Defined by many as the “bohemian” side of the Catena family, Ernesto is a tireless and avid reader, painter, art collector, horseman, polo player and archer. While president of Bodegas Escorihuela, Ernesto felt the need to produce wines that would reflect his basic beliefs: high quality, a different style from the majority of wines being made at the time, smaller volumes and a strong brand concept. In 2002, Ernesto Catena Vineyards was created to express those beliefs.
Alma Negra means “Black Soul”, because the color of the wines made from the bonarda grape is deep and intense. The the first wines made, which where all reds, had a real “black soul” when you saw them in the glass. Ernesto also wanted to create a wine about which little was known, the composition or technical details, so that the wine was judged solely on how the taster perceived it. When the line was launched in 2006, the wines were named Misterio, and the mask on the label was a symbol for a hidden identity or mystery.
With vineyards tretching along the eastern side of the Andes Mountains from Patagonia in the south to Salta in the north, Argentina is one of the world’s largest and most dynamic wine producing countries—and most important in South America.
Since the late 20th century vineyard investments, improved winery technology and a commitment to innovation have all contributed to the country’s burgeoning image as a producer of great wines at all price points. The climate here is diverse but generally continental and agreeable, with hot, dry summers and cold snowy winters—a positive, as snow melt from the Andes Mountains is used heavily to irrigate vineyards. Grapes very rarely have any difficulty achieving full ripeness.
Argentina’s famous Mendoza region, responsible for more than 70% of Argentina’s wine production, is further divided into several sub-regions, with Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley most noteworthy. Red wines dominate here, especially Malbec, the country’s star variety, while Chardonnay is the most successful white.
The province of San Juan is best known for blends of Bonarda and Syrah. Torrontés is a specialty of the La Rioja and Salta regions, the latter of which is also responsible for excellent Malbecs grown at very high elevation.
With hundreds of red grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a fruity and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is naturally high in acidity and tannins. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.