Founded in 1902 by the current proprietor’s grandfather, who, after emigrating from Italy four years earlier, planted the first Malbec on the foothills of the Andes in Mendoza. Catena Zapata helped establish Argentina’s reputation for quality wine.
After enduring difficult times in the 1960s and 1970s as the country’s economy suffered inflation and economic stress, the current proprietor – Nicholas Zapata – took a sabbatical in Berkeley in California. Based on what he saw of California wine production, he returned to Catena Zapata with a newfound conviction to produce only wine that could compete qualitatively with those of France. The bulk wine business was sold off and the focus became entirely on Bodegas Esmeralda, the fine wine branch of the family.
Nicolas had been less sure about the merits of Malbec than had been his father and grandfather, but in 1994 the winery produced a Zapata Malbec from 85-year-old vines in the Angelica vineyard. This wine was a huge success. Favorable press brought international attention to the winery. But Cabernet Sauvignon remained Nicolas’ primary focus, and in 2001 a wine called Laura was released from the 1997 vintage. This wine was thought by many to be on a par with some of the greatest wines made in Bordeaux. A premium Chardonnay was also produced.
Today, numerous different bottlings are produced by this family estate. Among six vineyards owned today, one, the Arianna Vineyard at 5,000 feet altitude on alluvial, gravel and limestone soils, is unquestionably regarded as one of Argentina’s greatest vineyards.
The sleek and elegant 2019 Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae is now certified organic (since 2018) and comes from vines planted in 1992 at 1390 meters above sea level in Gualtallary on alluvial limestone soils. Seventy-five percent of the volume fermented in concrete vats with 50% full clusters and the remaining 25% fermented in oak foudres. But instead of fermenting the grapes they only fermented the juice (as it's usually done for white wines) to give the wine more elegance and lightness. I was listening to a record from a new band Generation Radio with musicians from Journey and Chicago and the music had a similar profile to the wine: sleek elegant polished nicely crafted clean and harmonious easy to listen to (and drink to) with a soft side to it. The wine has ripeness (14% alcohol) but also high acidity from the high-altitude vineyards which makes it very lively beautifully textured balanced and elegant. Beautiful. 5400 bottles were filled in November 2020. Some of the vineyards from Catena are suffering from phylloxera and parts of some vineyards have to be grubbed up and replanted.
Lots of black fruit with black truffles and dried flowers. Moss and earth too. Full-bodied and earthy on the palate with blackberry and black earth. Firm tight finish with juicy fruit at the end. Needs three or four years to open. Drink after 2024.
The 2019 Malbec Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae from Gualtallary Uco Valley comes from Parcel 3 of the Adrianna Vineyard which is planted at a height of 4560 feet in alluvial soils rich in calcium deposits. Aged for 18 months in new and used French barrels it is a rich purple in hue. A complex fragrant aromatic profile of fr