Argentina’s Malbec boom, from 2005 to about 2012 (during which exports to the U.S. grew 30 percent to 40 percent a year), was built on tanker loads of the jammy, over-oaked, mass-market variety. The grape became the country’s signature, a wild success story. Argentina is now the fifth-biggest producer of wine in the world. But for the past few years, restless, experimental winemakers have been intent on making more serious, elegant Malbecs that are brighter, less oaky, and lower in alcohol than those from a decade ago. That’s meant looking for cooler sites in this hot, dry land, mostly at high altitudes. One of the most prominent wineries of Argentina is the Bodega Catena Zapata. Founded in 1902, it is known for its pioneering role in resurrecting Malbec and in discovering extreme high altitude terroirs in the Andean foothills of Mendoza. The family’s Adrianna Vineyard at almost 5,000 feet elevation has been called the Grand Cru of South America. Nicolás Catena Zapata is justly credited with putting Argentinean wines on the world map by focusing entirely on quality. To date he has been awarded Decanter Man of the Year as well as the Wine Spectator Distinguished Service Award.
2016 Catena Chardonnay, High Mountain Vines
List price 20.00; Our price 17.99
The wine shows citrus and peach fruit flavors on the nose and a rich texture on the palate. There are lively floral notes, a strong mineral character and cool climate bright acidity. Wine critic James Suckling gives it a 92 point rating: “Aromas of sliced apple and lemon follow through to a full body, with creamy texture and lovely stone and apple flavors. White peaches too. Subtle and flavorful.”
2014 Catena Alta Chardonnay, Historic Rows
List price 35.00; Our price 29.99
92-point rating from Robert Parker: “The 2013 Catena Alta Chardonnay feels cleaner, sharper, more focused and with less (or better integrated) new oak. The clear must fermented slowly in 500-liter oak barrels so it becomes quite stable naturally. It matured in those oak barrels for 14-15 months. This is very fresh, elegant, austere, angular and really impressive wine.”
2015 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon, High Mountain Vines
List price 22.00; Our price 17.99
Parker likes this wine, too, 92-points. “Aromas of currant, licorice, spice and pepper; more red fruits than black. The fruit sweetness is nicely countered by lively acidity and fine tannins. Very little obvious oakiness here, and that’s all to the good.”
2014 Catena Malbec, High Mountain Vines
List price 22.00; Our price 19.99
There are ripe, concentrated dark fruit aromas with delicate floral notes and traces of vanilla and mocha. It is rich and lush on the palate, with concentrated black cherry and red currant fruit flavors layered with sweet spices and a touch of leather. The finish presents soft, supple tannins with bright, crisp acidity. A flinty minerality gives the wine exceptional length.
2013 Catena Alta Malbec, Historic Rows
List price 49.00; Our price 39.99
The nose has aromas of ripe red and black berry fruits with notes of violets and lavender and hints of leather and a touch of spices. The wine is full-bodied and rich, with sweet tannins and a smooth structure, offering multiple layers of blackberries and black currant with hints of licorice, vanilla, and black pepper. This wine's lengthy finish shows beautiful minerality with fine tannins and lively acidity.
2010 Nicolas Catena Zapata
List price 109.00; Our price 99.99
The inaugural 1997 vintage of this Cabernet won a series of blind tastings against first growths and other prestigious cuvées from around the world. This blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon and 22% Malbec is unfined and unfiltered, winning 93 points from Wine Enthusiast: "Spicy, leathery, gritty notes share the nose with ripe black-fruit scents... At this stage, the palate feels narrow and pinched but not miserly. Flavors of spicy blackberry, briary plum and cassis finish with smooth yet strong tannins and a note of licorice."
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