Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 1997
Bodega Catena Zapata is one of Argentina's high altitude Malbec pioneers. The Catena family began making wine in Mendoza in 1902. Nicolas Catena, third generation family vintner, was one of the first to see the potential of Mendoza's mountain vineyards for producing high quality Malbec. In 1994, he became the first Argentine to exprot a world-class bottling of Malbec under the Catena label. Nicolas is joined by his daughter, Dr. Laura Catena, in their relentless pursuit of world-class quality from the family's high altitude vineyards. Laura has done extensive work in introducing Malbec and other varietal plant selections, soil and climate analysis, and sustainable practices throughout Mendoza. Head winemaker, Alejandro Vigil, has been at Catena Zapata since 2002 and works with Laura and Nicolas to make wines that express the family's vineyards and palate.
Argentina of course is heralded for its Malbecs. But in the last two decades Cabernet Sauvignon has been drawing increased attention from winemakers there, and is now the third most planted variety. It is grown in the Mendoza region in the Andean foothills, especially in Maipú and Luján de Cuyo, at altitudes between 2300 and 3100 feet. Here the climate is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. It is very dry and sometimes quite windy, with runoff from the snow-capped Andes providing irrigation. These Argentinian Cabernets offer dark fruit, spice notes, full body and often a voluptuous style.
Another source within Mendoza is the higher altitude Uco Valley, at 3300 to 5000 feet. Up at this level grapes ripen more slowly, despite the bright sun. But that enables them to develop bright acidity levels, giving the wines a fresh quality to go with intense fruit flavors. Another source of good Cabernet Sauvignon in Argentina is Cafayate, in the Calchaquí Valley. North of Mendoza, these vineyards are even higher, at about 5700 feet! These Cabernets carry notes of spice, herbs and menthol to go with dark fruit. Like those from Uco Valley, they show concentration and great vibrancy.
A few producers to look for are Catena, Viña Cobos, Pulenta and Altocedro. Salud!