Catena Zapata Argentino Vineyard Malbec 2011
Pairs well with lamb chops, beef tenderloin, and goat cheese.
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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.
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.
Known for its big, bold flavors and supple texture, Malbec is most famous for its runaway success in Argentina. However, the variety actually originated in Bordeaux, where it historically contributed color and tannin to blends. After being nearly wiped out by a devastating frost in 1956, it was never significantly replanted, although it continued to flourish under the name Côt in nearby Cahors. A French agronomist who saw great potential for the variety in Mendoza’s hot, high-altitude landscape, brought Malbec to Argentina in 1868. But it did not gain its current reputation as the country's national grape until a surge in popularity in the late 20th century.
In the Glass
Malbec typically expresses deep flavors of blackberry, plum and licorice, appropriately backed by aromas of freshly turned earth and dense, chewy tannins. In warmer, New World regions, such as Mendoza, Malbec will be intensely ripe, and full of fruit and spice. From its homeland in Cahors, its rusticity shines; dusty notes and a beguiling bouquet of violets balance rich, black fruit.
Malbec’s rustic character begs for flavorful dishes, like spicy grilled sausages or the classic cassoulet of France’s Southwest. South American iterations are best enjoyed as they would be in Argentina: with a thick, juicy steak.
If you’re trying to please a crowd, Malbec is generally a safe bet. With its combination of bold flavors and soft tannins, it will appeal to basically anyone who enjoys red wine. Malbec also wins bonus points for affordability, as even the most inexpensive examples are often quite good.