Sometimes when it comes to New World countries such as Argentina, there is a general feeling that they don’t care about winemaking, or have as much expertise as their Old World counterparts from France, Italy and such like.
This is a really out-dated way of thinking, and when I set out to visit South America last month, I wanted to show that they do care, just as much. I’m happy to say that Catena Zapata didn’t let me down and was busting myths left, right and centre.
In fact, the idea that in New World countries winemakers don’t really pay as much attention in the vineyard and winery, was shown to be complete nonsense.
We met up with Luis, the Vineyard Director at Catena, at their Adriana vineyard which soars up to 1500m in altitude at the highest point.
The differences in altitude within the vineyard mean that they plant different grape varieties in different areas, in order for them to ripen perfectly. Even the same grapes at different altitudes will be picked at different times in order to ensure optimum ripeness.
This meticulous approach to their vineyards was particularly highlighted when we pulled up to a hole halfway up the vineyard. Luis jumped in, and explained that the hole was there to demonstrate the soil type that these Chardonnay grapes were being grown on. This hole in particular was made up of fossilised sea creatures, and when we tasted the wine – aptly named White Bones – this very fresh, mineral character really came through in the wine, and smelt just like the sea.
We then walked a couple of hundred metres up to another hole in the ground, and this one looked substantially different with regards to the soil composition. Out came another bottle – White Stones, this time – and we instantly tasted the difference. This wine had a much creamier texture, and a wildflower character, quite like dandelions.
Both wines are made in very small parcels that reflect the equally small areas of different terrain within the vineyard. The rest of the Chardonnay (again grown on different soil) is blended into the equally delicious, but again unique, Catena Alta.
The care and attention in the vineyard is also followed through in the winery, where they are constantly researching and developing the best methods for producing outstanding quality wine. We were reverently introduced to their new barrels, that were the first of their kind to be imported into Argentina.
I can say, hand on heart, that all of this hard work is definitely worth it and it really shines through in the wines. When I got back to the UK I met an Argentine student, who professed that the Catena wines are the best of Mendoza. I have to say that I am very much in agreement.