Catena Zapata, Red Blend "Nicolás Catena"
Catena Zapata, Red Blend "Nicolás Catena"

Catena Zapata, Red Blend "Nicolás Catena"

Mendoza, Argentina 2019 (750mL)
Regular price$119.00

Catena Zapata, Red Blend "Nicolás Catena"

We’ll admit, $100+ luxury Bordeaux blends from Argentina aren’t exactly our bread and butter here at SommSelect. But upon tasting Catena Zapata’s 2019 “Nicolás Catena,” we knew we had to offer it. It’s too forthrightly profound, too ageworthy, offers too much value relative to similarly-priced showpieces for it not to be offered to every serious SommSelect collector. 25 years ago, this is the bottling that proved that Argentina could hang with the big boys of Bordeaux, and to this day it exudes First Growth class and complexity while carrying a decidedly un-First Growth price tag. Thanks to ungrafted vines and extreme elevation, it feels like a return to the golden days of Bordeaux, and it promises a similar decades-long aging curve in your cellar. If you’re in need of a last-minute gift for that person whose cellar is already stocked with collectible gems – or if you yourself have a passion for the absolute most exalted experiences in wine – this is the bottle for you.

The “Nicolás Catena” bottling is the culmination of the Catena Zapata winery’s century-plus history as pioneers of Argentinian wine. Nicola Catena (not to be confused with his grandson Nicolás, for whom today’s wine is named) first planted Malbec vines in 1902, after having arrived a few years earlier from Italy. Nicola’s son Domingo built the winery until it was one of the largest landholders in the country, largely focused on producing affordable everyday bottles. But once Domingo’s son, Nicolás, had taken the reins, Argentina had entered a decades-long economic slump, and Nicolás was forced to move to California to take up a second career as a professor of economics. It was a fortuitous move: Nicolás spent his days off visiting Napa Valley, where he was profoundly inspired by the quality of Cabernet there. He returned to Argentina obsessed with producing a wine that could compete with the world’s very best. He sold off most of the vineyards, and began planting in some of the most marginal sites he could find, places where even his own vineyard manager told him fruit would never ripen. Nicolás was proven right though, and over a decade later, when he made the first vintage of “Nicolás Catena” in 1997, his dream was achieved.

The first vintages of “Nicolás Catena” were made almost entirely of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. But as vintages have gotten warmer and the Catena family have refined their winemaking techniques, Argentina’s signature variety Malbec has come to play a more prominent role. The 2019 is almost one-third Malbec, and in that way is a return to the way things were in Bordeaux over 100 years ago, before the variety was more or less replaced by Merlot. Both sites “Nicolás Catena” hails from, the Adrianna and the Narcisa crus, feature Malbec planted on its own roots at an elevation of over 3500 feet. The 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Cabernet Franc that make up the final blend are planted alongside the Malbec, also on their own roots. Mendoza’s radiant sun during the day and incredibly chilly nights mean the resulting wine is also reminiscent of classic Bordeaux in its tightrope balance between fruit-driven ripeness and mineral structure.

In 2019, the fruit was hand harvested and fermented in a mix of small oak barrels, stainless steel, and concrete for around two weeks. It then aged in 50% new French barriques. Although he isn’t directly involved in most winemaking operations these days, Nicolás still oversees the blending and bottling of his namesake cuvée. This is really a bottle to lay down for a few years before you crack into it, but give it an hour or so in a decanter and it’ll be delicious now too. It pours a garnet red with hints of purple and opens with a wildly expressive nose of dark, rumbling fruit – purple plums, blackcurrant, blackberry, raspberry liqueur. Behind the fruit comes classic cedar and sandalwood spice, with wafts of black pepper, smoke, and fresh leather. The palate is wonderfully polished, almost mouth coating in its density, before being lifted up by a woosh of acidity and prominent tannins. There’s stuffing here for it to go decades in your cellar, and to really see the heights Mendoza can achieve, we recommend leaving a few bottles untouched for as long as you can. So be sure you grab enough!

Catena Zapata, Red Blend "Nicolás Catena"

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