Sneak Peek Into Catena Zapata, iconic Argentine winery
Discover the story of this iconic family winery, which had a significant role in the Argentinian wine transformation and their secret sauce to success.
The winery recently presented their four ‘100 points’ wines in the Great Wall of China amidst worldwide critics, press and guests. A picture which was not possible to anticipate some decades ago, when Argentina was mainly a bulk wine producer.
Founded in 1902, Catena Zapata is a historic family winery recognized for its pioneering role in the resurgence of Malbec and the discovery of the terroirs of extreme altitude at the foot of the Andes. Nowadays, it is managed by third and fourth generation vintners, Nicolás and his daughter Laura Catena.
Even though VinoApp’s team highlights primarily blind tastings, we couldn’t ignore these stellar ratings of Adrianna Vineyard’s parcel wines (most iconic vineyard from the winery).
- Fortuna Terrae Malbec 2012 – 100 points by James Suckling
- River Stones Malbec 2016 – 100 points by Robert Parker
- River Stones Malbec 2017 – 100 points by James Suckling
- Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec 2011 – 100 points by Falstaff.
So, what was the trick? How did they achieve this range of wines in such a short span of time?
They came up with a very reasonable storyline, and called it “The 3 Revolutions”.
- 80’s-90’s – The first one took place in the winery and the vineyards. Nicolas focused on the improvement of the techniques applied to vine growing and vinification, the clonal selection and oak’s quality. Moreover, they began to use non-oxidative practices in order to preserve and highlight the fruity profile of the wine, incorporating a new Californian-French style that includes strict control of fermentation temperatures.
- The second revolution is related to the “Extreme Altitude”, and it arose when Nicolas realized that if he expected to compete with the best wines from France he needed to plant vineyards in cooler climates. Thus, he decided to find a place in the west of Mendoza, getting higher, and he found a magic spot in Gualtallary, a desert land, what we today know as Adrianna vineyard, located at 1,500 meters high and what they have now baptized as ‘the Grand Cru of South America’.
- The third revolution is called “Adrianna’s parcels”. They were discovered when the Catena family started to study the terroir and they found out that the alluvial soils of Mendoza have a distinctive characteristic: they are not homogeneous. In short distances, we observe differences in the physical and chemical composition which result in different identified parcels that produce diverse aromas and flavors.
The first Catena came at the beginning of the 20th century from Italy. In 1902, Nicolás’s grandfather, Nicola planted his first Malbec vineyard in Mendoza, with the confidence of getting the very best of this strain near the Andes. No technology used, no deep soil studies made, just a hunch accompanied by his vine growing knowledge.
Their passion for Malbec is seen in two of their recent marketing actions.
First, they made a cartoon explaining the whole story about the variety called, “The Rebirth of Malbec”.
Later, they designed a new packaging for “Malbec Argentino”, one of their icon wines, turning that story into a label.
One of the lesser-known facts about Catena Zapata is that the winery owns and runs The Catena Institute of Wine, led by Laura Catena (Nicolas’ daughter), biologist and winemaker. They are partners of prestigious research institutions in Argentina and the U.S., and they have published the largest, most prolific, Malbec study in the world carried out to date.
The vision of the Catena Institute of Wine is to continue elevating our historic variety, Malbec, and our Argentine winemaking regions for another 100 years. Today, the team is dedicated to studying every meter, rock, insect and microorganism in the Adrianna Vineyard, turning it into, perhaps, the most studied vineyard in the world.
If you were not aware of Catena Zapata, you can now imagine, how by digging just a bit into Argentina’s wines, you can unlock an entire treasure of untold stories.