2010 Bodegas Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon Nicolas Catena Zapata

Year: 2010
Appellation: Mendoza
Country: Argentina
Wine Spectator: 92
Wine Advocate: 95
Vinous Media: 94
Red Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 14.0%
Price :
$79.95

BELIEVE IT OR NOT A LIST PRICE OF $135.00, WE KILL 'EM!!

"A rich red, delivering powerful dark cherry, plum and dried blackberry flavors flanked by notes of slate and spice. Fresh and minerally on the finish, featuring some green herbal hints and firm tannins. Drink now through 2020. 1,850 cases imported. –KM " (WS)

"Doctor Nicolas Catena always liked Cabernet Sauvignon so the wine that carries his name has a greater percentage of the noble Bordeaux grape. The 2010 Nicolas Catena Zapata is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Malbec sourced from La Piramide, Domingo, Adrianna and Nicasia. The fresh and balanced 2010 produced good ripeness of the fruit but the acidity was also great and the wine finished with 6.5 grams of acidity and a natural pH of 3.5, as the grapes are selected from cold soils. The first vintage was 1997, but this has to be one of their finest. This has the intensity of the Catena Alta Cabernet and the verticality and austerity of the Adrianna Malbec. It has very good acidity and intensity, while it has some velvety tannins. For a minute I was trying to remember the varietals as the sense of place, the freshness and the earthy sensations clearly take over. A superb bottle of wine. This is a wine to age. Drink 2016-2023.

Catena is almost equivalent to Argentine quality wine, as Nicolas Catena was the true pioneer and is still the most important wine personality in Argentina. Bodega Catena Zapata has been owned by the Catena family since 1902. Of course I paid a lot of attention to their wines and I tasted with Laura Catena and winemaker Alejandro Vigil both in Madrid and Mendoza, visited their vineyards in Gualtallary and jumped into different pits in the soil to see the differences in terroir. I was able to discuss multiple topics (including Sherry wine, as it seems to be one of his passions) with Nicolas Catena, which was a real pleasure. They are so forward thinking and smart as they are still at the head of quality wines in the country, doing amazing research and never resting on their laurels. Alejandro Vigil is one of the most passionate and intuitive winemakers on Earth, and he’s also completely crazy about wine, always wanting to experiment, to question the established ideas and to learn more. We need more of these champions in the wine world. The result can be no other than superb wines, with some groundbreaking whites that could compete with the finest white Burgundies (I’d love to do a blind tasting one day) and the most amazing Malbecs you can think of, and everything in between.

To explain some of the many things I saw and learned from them, one of the main objectives is to improve the knowledge of their vineyards, to break the macro-units of terroir into smaller parts, smaller zones, and even vineyards, or even parts of vineyards. This allows them to do different viticulture, watering, harvesting and vinification even to a few rows of vines. For one given vineyard they might have 200 different lots, which is not a picture of the terroir, but a FILM of the terroir, which gives the wines enormous complexity and for them it creates an even higher complexity, for the blends! The result of this way of working is hundreds (or was it thousands? I think it was.) of micro-vinifications in every vintage. The amazing blending skills cannot then be forgotten. Nicolas Catena has three offspring: Laura, Ernesto and Adrianna. Laura is a doctor in San Francisco but is already at the helm of the family winery. She has time to travel the world showing their wines and to write books about Argentine wine. Ernesto has different projects and is enchanted by biodynamic practices.

Adrianna is the youngest, still studying in the UK, but already involved, as she shares ownership with Alejandro Vigil in the Aleanna winery (also included in this report). Various vineyards are named after members of the Catena family. If we use Laura as the pivotal point, Angelica was her grandmother, and Nicasia was the mother of Angelica, so she was Laura Catena’s great-grandmother. Both Nicasia and Angelica are names of vineyards you might see on their labels. Adrianna Vineyard is, of course, named after Nicolas’ younger daughter and was the first vineyard ever planted in Gualtallary. Doctor Nicolas Catena told me that he planted there out of fluke and then they realized he had discovered a treasure of a place, but I believe that what he calls “fluke” is really intuition. Coincidences like that do not really exist, you know. Gualtallary is nowadays recognized as one of the highest potential wine regions, not only in Mendoza, but in the whole of Argentina. The combination of high altitude and calcium carbonate-rich soils produces wines that are both intense and fresh, true to their origin.

To continue with the experiments, I tasted two Malbecs from similar soils (same depth) all from Adrianna on chalky soils, and they experimented with different density. They have a plot with 6,000 plants per hectare and another one with 12,000 plants. The version with high plantation is so much more focused and vertical. One other experience was to see the influence of deep soils on Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in Nicasia. Angelica is the historical vineyard, in Lunlunta, where they did one sweet wine with the green-harvested bunches that were not cut fully, but were left hanging on the vine. Those bunches were harvested one month later than normal, and the must fermented naturally with indigenous yeasts that fermented up to 17.8% alcohol and left 42 grams of sugar. Unfortified, it was a delicious experience. That’s just a sample of what keeps them busy at Catena, as they are also experimenting and formulating different hypothesis that have to be demonstrated relative to the orientation of the plantings (traditionally north-south, because of the irrigation by gravity), width of the canopy, the influence of height of the plants, how to irrigate – you name it! The groundbreaking Adrianna Vineyard wine was produced in 2004 for the first time, from their grapes in Gualtallary in Tupungato, but the big change arrived with the 2006 when they changed everything. It was a very cold vintage and all of a sudden the vision was that for cold wines they had to stop using barriques and started using old 400- and 500-liter old barrels instead, which were previously used for transportation only.

2006 turned out to be a superb vintage, and they increased the knowledge about their micro-plots in the vineyard, like their cuartel 5. This wine is more subtle than other Malbecs, less obvious, with more subtle flowers, and violets mixed with chalk. It was in 2006 when Alejandro Vigil realized that Malbec had to be treated and fermented like a Pinot Noir rather than like Cabernet Sauvignon, which was what the majority of people –including him- were doing. That’s when the Catena wines really took off, and they have not looked back. Finally, let’s take a simplified look at the different ranges of wines before I go into each individual wine: the Catena range is a blend of high altitude estate vineyards. The Catena Alta range is what they call a row selection in the Catena family vineyards. The Catena Zapata wines are the top of the range, and they are a plant-by-plant selection from their vineyards. It might sound crazy (and it probably is), but that’s what it is." (WA)

"(14% alcohol; 6.5 g/l acidity; 3.45 pH): Bright ruby-red. Very pure, multifaceted nose offers black fruits, dusty spices, game, leather and minerals. Plush on entry, then classically dry and uncompromising, showing a lovely light touch and terrific violet lift to its sharply delineated flavors of cassis, menthol, licorice, bitter chocolate and saline minerality. Very claret-like in a St. Julien way. This wonderfully suave, still-primary wine, from a small, cool harvest, finishes with sneaky breadth, fine-grained tannins and captivating spicy lift." (VM)