Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino 2021, Mendoza
A statement Malbec, gorgeous label meeting harmonious and luscious vivacity
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Founded in 1902, Argentina’s Bodega Catena Zapata is known for its pioneering role in resurrecting Malbec and in discovering extreme high-altitude terroirs in the Andean foothills of Mendoza. 3rd generation Nicolas led the way in showcasing the world class of Argentinean wines globally, leading the way in viticulture and winemaking, carrying the tradition with pride, challenging themselves continuously to craft wines that can be counted among the best in the world.
Catena ‘Classic’ – is an expression from 100% estate-grown cultivars from the family’s high-altitude vineyards, with high attention to details to preserve the unique expression, aromas and flavors of the fruit, adding a heightened complexity to the final wine.
The Catenas led the way in extensively mapping their estate vineyards for decades, in order to discover the differences in soil structure, clonal selection, row orientation, slope or plantation density. This resulted in a mix of wine character and concentration with a one-of-a-kind personality, giving birth to Catena Alta in the 1990s, which spearheaded the first top-quality releases of its kind from Argentina.
Nicolás still yearned to make wines that could stand with the world’s greats. To do this, he knew he needed to grow fruit of unprecedented quality, with a level of concentration, complexity and balance never before seen in Argentina. Once each specific lot was identified and its potential revealed through row-by-row micro-vinification, Nicolás developed a plant-by-plant selection through which he could further enhance the characteristics of each lot. Today the Zapata vines are specifically marked and meticulously cared for as the mother plants to the Zapata Four: Nicolás Catena Zapata, Malbec Argentino, Adrianna Malbec and Nicasia Malbec.
Their hard work and dedication behind crafting such fine wines, Terroir refinement hasn’t been unnoticed, with the winery voted as #1 World Best Vineyard and firmly established as 2nd most admired wine brand in the world in 2023. They also started a dynasty, today pursued by Nicolas’ daughter Laura who has taken the helm, recognized as wine personality of the year 2022 with her work on Terroir and sustainability.
TEN CENTURIES OF LIFE, DEATH AND REBIRTH
The epic tale of the noble Malbec grape is like no other, and the label for Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino pays tribute to the variety’s history in France and its rise in Argentina. Four female figures embody different landmarks in the history of the grape. Eleanor of Aquitaine represents the birth of Malbec. She is a strong, Old-World presence, lingering at the bridge in Cahors, where Malbec came into its own. Next, the Immigrant symbolizes the movement to the New World and the unknown explorers and adventurers who connected Europe with the Americas. Phylloxera personifies the death of Malbec in the Old World, which enabled its rebirth in the new. Finally, there is Bodega Catena Zapata, represented by Adrianna Catena, who depicts birth, earth, and motherhood, sharing the riches of the New World. Today, the Catena family’s fourth generation leads the high-altitude renaissance in Argentina. We are returning Malbec to the sky… where it belongs.
No matter what the vintage, this wine is really more than 100 years old. It represents a family’s journey to produce an Argentine Malbec that can stand with the great wines of the world.
20% whole cluster and 80% whole berry fruit is hand-loaded into 225-500 liter new French oak barrels for a 100% barrel fermentation for a period of 17 and 28 days, allowing seamless oak integration. The fermentation temperature is kept low, extracting intense aromas, and the cap management is done by hand to ensure soft, gentle flavors and tannin extraction. Wild yeasts. Alcoholic and malolactic fermentation in barrel leaves considerable lees and sediment. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 10 and 15 months.
Old Vines from the Catena Zapata Family Vineyards, Nicasia and Angélica. The origins of the vines, which we call “The Catena Cuttings”, is a prephyloxeric Massale Selection from the Angélica Vineyard.
Harvest time varies depending on each lot’s soil composition. Harvest time can vary by several weeks between one lot and another within the same vineyard.
Nicasia Vineyard: Named after Nicolás Catena Zapata’s grandmother.
Shallow loamy soil. Gravel on surface and topsoil.
Location: La Consulta District, San Carlos Region, Mendoza, Argentina.
Altitude: 3,593 ft (1,095 m) elevation.
Planted in 1996 (20 years old vineyard).
Angélica Vineyard: Named after Nicolás Catena Zapata’s mother.
Soil: Adjacent to dry river bed. Light gravel, loam and clay.
Location: Lunlunta District, Maipú Region, Mendoza, Argentina.
Altitude: 3,018 ft (920 m) elevation.
Planted in: Circa 1930 (90 years old vineyard)
Varietal: 100% Malbec
Alcohol: 13.90 %
Total Acidity: 6.15 grams/liter
Wine Director: Alejandro Vigil
Winemaker: Ernesto Bajda
The Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino shows a saturated dark violet color with ruby reflections; the nose offers cassis, blueberries and violets, along with a strong suggestion of soil tones. It combines density and sweetness on the one hand, with gripping, lightly saline flavors of mocha, dark berries, spice, and minerals; a palate-staining finish dominated by sweet black and blue fruits.
Robert Parker Wine Advocate – 96 points
The very young but already harmonious 2021 Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino has one of the showier labels from the Catena portfolio. 2021 was a cooler year, as cold as 2016, but instead of a wet year like 2016, it was dry. The wine is juicy and reveals a vibrant palate and very clean and focused aromas and flavors. It’s clean and precise with varietal aromas of violets, ripe berries and herbs and a spicy touch from the élevage in oak. It’s another great vintage for this blend of grapes from the vineyards of Angélica (Lunlunta) and Nicasia (Altamira). It’s nicely textured and tasty, medium to full-bodied and with a vibrant finish. 60,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in July 2022.
I did a mini vertical of 2020, 2017, 2015, 2012, 2008 and 2004, the first vintage produced. 2017 showed very well, better than when young; 2015 and 2012 had intense notes of graphite and ink, but the 2015 had more strawberries and more complexity; 2012 was a little more advanced; 2008 was herbal and minty (thyme and aromatic herbs); and 2004 felt like it came from a different era, still oaky and resinous.
James Suckling – 96 points
A really well-balanced malbec here that is slightly spicier and richer. Black cherries, dark olives and some violets. Fleshy and almost full-bodied on the palate with juicy, naturally rendered fruit and very fine-grained tannins. Balance is the word. Drink or hold.