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.
By far the largest and best-known winemaking province in Argentina, Mendoza is responsible for over 70% of the country’s enological output. Set in the eastern foothills of the Andes Mountains, the climate is dry and continental, presenting relatively few challenges for viticulturists during the growing season. Mendoza, divided into several distinctive sub-regions, including Luján de Cuyo and the Uco Valley, is the source of some of the country’s finest wines.
For many wine lovers, Mendoza is practically synonymous with Malbec. Originally a Bordelaise variety brought to Argentina by the French in the mid-1800s, here it found success and renown that it never knew in its homeland where a finicky climate gives mixed results. Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Pinot Noir are all widely planted here as well (and sometimes even blended with each other or Malbec). Mendoza's main white varieties include Chardonnay, Torrontés, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon.
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended white wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used in white wine blends, 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 soft and full-bodied white wine blend, like Chardonnay, would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. 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.