2019 Catena Zapata Catena Paraje Altamira Malbec

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Wine Critic Reviews for 2019 Catena Zapata Catena Paraje Altamira Malbec

So much orange peel to the dark berries and ripe fruit. But never over the top. Medium-to full-bodied with medium-round tannins and a savory finish. Just a hint of chocolate and walnut. Nice subtlety to the depth. Drink or hold.

James Suckling | 94 JS
Following the path of the 2018, the 2019 Appellation Paraje Altamira Malbec is phenomenal. It shows freshness, elegance, balance, complexity and nuance as well. It's seamless, precise and ethereal with lots of inner energy and light. As the 2018 was, it's expressive and floral, varietal and with the full chalky texture that is a distinct characteristic of Altamira. It's tasty, the tannins are polished and there is an almost salty sensation in the finish. It was bottled in April 2020, and volume has now grown to 54,000 bottles.

Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 93 RP
Paraje Altamira is one of the most popular terroirs in Argentina. This Malbec was aged in 35% new wood and possesses a nose of fresh boysenberry, blackberry and plum plus well-defined notes of violet and herb. In the mouth it shifts from chalky texture to voluminous freshness, with tight, polished tannins that shape the long, fruity finish. A textbook wine for the terroir.

Vinous Media | 92 VM

Wine Details on 2019 Catena Zapata Catena Paraje Altamira Malbec

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Producer Catena Zapata: In the past 50 years, Argentinian wine has splashed onto the scene with vigor; the South American country becoming one of the most important winegrowing locations on earth. The high altitude deserts of the eastern Andes Mountain Range have given rise to a high quality wine industry. “Nicolas Catena [Zapata] is justly credited with putting Argentinian wines on the world map…” stated the renowned British wine critic, Jancis Robinson. Numerous others have shared her sentiment, including wine writers, critics, enthusiasts and industry experts around the world, since Nicolas thrust Argentinian winemaking into the modern era… and into the global spotlight.

After emigrating from poverty and famine-stricken Italy in 1898, Nicola Catena (Nicolas’ grandfather) landed in the rolling hills of Mendoza, Argentina where he believed to have found the land of plenty and opportunity. In 1902, he planted his first Malbec vineyard in Mendoza, laying the foundation for what would become one of the most respected winegrowing dynasties in the world. Ever since, the Catena family has poured their lives, passion, sweat and spirit into transforming a scrub-laden, high-altitude desert into some of the most beautiful, and prosperous vineyards in the world. Domingo, Nicola's eldest son, inherited his father's dream and took the family winery to the next level, building the Catena business to become one of the largest vineyard holders in Mendoza. Like his father before him, Domingo Catena fiercely believed that Argentine Malbec could make a wine as worthy as any first-growth Bordeaux.

When it was Nicolas Catena Zapata’s (Zapata being his mother’s maiden name and by Argentine custom, Zapata follows Catena in his full name) turn to take the reins of the family winery during the 1960s, the Argentine economy had imploded and inflation rates soared. Facing a challenging backdrop of political and economic instability, Nicolas concentrated his efforts on expanding distribution throughout the country. However, an incredible opportunity presented itself to Nicolas in the 1980s for which he could not refuse. Ever the academic (having graduated with a PHD in economics at the age of 22) Nicolas left Argentina for a short sabbatical to become a visiting scholar of economics at the world-renowned University of California, Berkley.

At that time, no one in the world dreamed of challenging France on the wine front, except of course, the Californians. It was a time of revival in the Napa Valley and the trip proved to be a serendipitous inspiration to Nicolas, who spent the weekends visiting the wineries with his wife, Elena and youngest daughter, Adrianna. He returned to Argentina with a newfound vision in mind; inspired by the apathetic and daring California winemakers. He set out to discover the best locations in Mendoza to advantageously cultivate Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay grapes. In order for the cooler climate, French varietals to prosper, he needed to either go south or go up. He chose to go up the mountain, settling in Gualtallary Alto, where the elevations reach over 5,000 feet. The risks he took were well worth the reward, as Nicolas found that Mendoza was exceptional for vine growing and with each high-altitude valley providing a unique flavor and aroma profile of the same varietal.

After having successfully planted, harvested and produced Cabernets and Chardonnays in the “New World” winemaking method so inspired by those in Napa, Nicolas was then determined to see Malbec ascend the varietal ladder in Argentinian winemaking. Unlike his father and grandfather, he was not as confident in the varietal nor the likelihood of it flourishing in the Mendoza terroir, but after the death of his father, he decided to make it his mission to see if his father’s intuition was right. Nicolas spent 5 years working on the 85-year old Angelica Vineyard (Named after his mother) before he was satisfied enough to make a Catena Malbec in 1994. The fruits of his labor were recognized on a grand scale, as famous American wine critic, Robert Parker wrote in his review, “Kudos to Nicolas Catena.” It was then ranked Argentina’s number 1 Malbec in the Wall Street Journal as the first ever feature on the varietal. It would take a decade for the Malbec grape to become well-known on the world market, but Nicolas Catena Zapata is certainly the genius behind the evolution of the Argentinian wine industry.

Great praise and accolade would follow Nicolas with each new endeavor taken, with Larry Stone of the James Beard Foundation insisting that “Nicolas Catena Zapata is a figure in Argentina of the stature of Robert Mondavi in Napa and Angelo Gaja in Piedmont. He inspired an entire region to strive for a higher level of quality by his successful exploration of high-altitude vineyards and rigorous clonal selection." His wines became highly anticipated by enthusiasts and critics alike: “This wine reminded me of a 2001 claret or a 2001 Napa Valley Cabernet; A beauty.” wrote famed wine critic, Stephen Tanzer on 2001 Nicolas Catena Zapata (Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec Blend). “It strikes me as being Argentina’s equivalent of a great vintage of Lafite Rothschild.” insisted Robert Parker about the 2004 Nicolas Catena Zapata. Nicolas had created Argentina’s first Grand Vin, inspiring others and changing the landscape of Argentine winemaking.

Today, with over 120 years of winemaking experience, the Catena family owns five vineyards (Angelica, Adrianna, La Piramide, Domingo and Nicasia) spread over 540 hectares, continuing what began in 1902; making wines with a soul, of character, wines that will age for generations to come. The exceptional limestone terroir and cooler climes in the high-altitude vineyards of Mendoza, which reach nearly 5,000 feet have become absolutely perfect planting grounds for Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Bonarda, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Semillon and Chenin Blanc to which the Catena family cultivates to produce their stellar and award-winning wine portfolio. The collection includes a slew of wines from the appellations of San Carlos, Tupungato, Lujan de Cuyo and Vista Flores as well as numerous others. Malbecs, Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons, Cabernet Francs and Chardonnays hail from their 5 highly esteemed vineyards (which are designated on each label from which vineyard). The wines are highlighted by the flag-ship Nicolas Catena Zapata which debuted in 1997 and continues to rock the collection and the world with its incredible power, allure and staying power, as well as its ability to rival the greatest wines in the world.

"I learned from my grandfather and father that the quality of a wine depends on the place where it was grown and there is very little we can do at the winery to improve what nature gives us." – Nicolas Catena Zapata. An incredible acquiescence by a brilliant mind, though it was Nicolas who discovered where and how to cultivate the land, introducing varietals that blend harmoniously with their surroundings. An incredible story and an incredible achievement; one that has thrusted Argentinian wines onto the world market and on to dinner tables around the world.
Region Argentina: The largest wine producer in South America also holds its place as one of the most prominent winemaking regions in the world. Argentinian vineyards are mostly situated in the shadow of the Andes, on high altitudes but comfortably sheltered from rain, relying on meltwater for their irrigation. This fortunate terroir allows for a slow, steady ripening process which unmistakably provides wines that are consistently intense, vibrant, balanced between the sweetness and acidity with a bright, plump, fruity bouquet.

The first Argentinian wine that comes to mind is Malbec. Though the grape is adopted from Bordeaux, it's Argentina that produces some of the most luscious, richest, highest-quality Malbec wines today. Mostly produced in Mendoza, these gems brilliantly showcase the mighty but beautiful spirit of the Andes and the life that's being lead there. Home to Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Bonarda varieties among many others, this region produces some of the finest bottles in the world. Potent yet layered, sweet but tart and packed with floral, black currant and spice flavors, these wines are not the ones to miss out on. If you're on the lookout for stunning reds, or delicate, floral, mouthwatering white wines, Argentina should make the top of your list.
Subregion Uco Valley
Appellation Paraje Altamira
Country US: As one of the most prolific and innovative wine regions in the world, America is a joy to explore. Most wine connoisseurs will agree that the nation's finest and most compelling wines are being produced today, which means that we have front-row seats to one of the most inspirational stories in wine history. While other regions tend to focus on specific wine styles and have somewhat strict rules as to which varietals you could grow, areas like California have few such restrictions in place. As a result, creative visionaries behind America's most reputable estates have been able to develop compelling, unique, and innovative styles, with a level of terroir expression that rivals even France's largest giants.
Type of Wine Argentina Red: If there were ever a single word that could perfectly describe fine Argentinian wines, it would be "purity." Red wine lovers could easily become spoiled for choice when that choice involves varietals such as Malbec or Tempranillo. With a complete dedication to a given grape, each bottle tells a compelling story, so have a seat and listen.
Varietal Malbec: When one door closes, another opens; such is true for the magnificent Malbec grape varietal. Though it originated in Southwest France and was originally one of the five main Bordeaux grape varietals, its history in that country is a troubled one. But…In the last few decades Malbec has been rejuvenated and has once again been thrust into the global spotlight. The star of Argentina is not native to South American, nevertheless has found a home, fame and success in its terroir.

The geographical origin of Malbec is not known with certainty; however, most sources and DNA testing have concluded that Malbec most likely originated in the vineyards surrounding the Lot River in Southwest France near the town of Cahors. The “black wines” from Cahors were incredibly popular with the medieval clergy and royalty and were reputedly served at the 1152 wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England. In 1225, Henry III refused to allow Bordeaux authorities from taxing wines sent by Cahors’ merchants who were under his protection. Pope John XXII (born in Cahors in 14th century) used vintages from the area as sacramental wines in Avignon (when Papal court resided in France).

Malbec had become immensely popular in Southwest France and eventually migrated to Bordeaux in the 1700’s where the varietal found success and greatly influenced blending in the Right Bank as well as the Medoc. Malbec was a major component to Bordeaux blends prior to the 19th century and may have greatly impacted the official 1855 Classification. During the early 1800’s, it is thought that some estates used as much as 50% in their blending.

When the phylloxera epidemic crippled most of Bordeaux’s vineyards in 1869, much of the vines devoted to Malbec were destroyed. Due to the grapes natural susceptibility to various diseases, frost, mildew and coulure (viticultural hazard resulting from changing weather patterns) most of the major replanting in the region was in favor of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The final fall from favor for Malbec in Bordeaux occurred after the devastating frost of 1956.

During the time of its fall in Bordeaux, Malbec was on the rise in the most unlikely of places, Argentina. It is thought to have been brought to South America in the 1850’s by Michel Pouget where the varietal prospered in optimum climate and terroir. The inky black-blue and thin-skinned Malbec grape requires specific climatic conditions to fully ripen. In Mondoza, Argentina, it found these requirements and much more.

The grape is adaptable to a variety of soil types; however, Malbec reaches its true zenith in the terroir of rocky, sandy soils of Mendoza which are low in fertility, but perfect for viticulture. This kind of soil forces the vines to work harder for hydration and nutrients, producing smaller berries. The result is fruit that is highly concentrated and flavorful. Where Malbec is adaptable to a variety of soils, making terroir less of a concern, it is however quite sensitive to consistently changing weather patterns and temperatures. Malbec thrives in dry climates, sunny weather and high elevations, perfectly describing the natural climate and terrain of Argentina. In Mendoza, Malbec enjoys the hot sun, most likely because of its high vigor and dense leaf canopy. The warm evening temperatures contribute to the reduction of grape acids, so that Malbec in Argentina is not as acidic as that in France. Furthermore, growers have observed that older Malbec vines in Mendoza’s higher altitude areas produce Malbec grapes with intense color, flavor and structure. The introduction of Malbec to Argentina is considered one of the greatest contributions to South America and its winemaking and growing industry.

Today, Malbec is the undisputed star of Argentina, where the fruit reaches its best expression. Since the 1990’s Malbec from Mendoza has created a stir on the wine market with consumers clawing to get bottles from star producers such as Catena Zapata and Cheval des Andes. It is nearly ironic that Bordeaux producers have begun partnering with proprietors in Mendoza but the result of this union has done great things for both the country’s wine industry as well as the production of quality bottlings for consumers who have become tantalized by the inky-black wines produced there. When ripe, it adds dark color, tannin and spicy characteristics to the wine, producing deep-colored, rich wines with freshness, balanced acidity, lush, round and supple textures with flavors of plum and blackberry.

Despite its demise in Bordeaux and its great accomplishments in Argentina, Cahors remains the spiritual home for Malbec. AOC (controlled designation of origin) laws dictate that no less than 70% of the variety be included in the blend. Malbec continues to enjoy a long history in Southwest France, particularly the appellation of Cahors, which could date back to the ancient Romans. It remains a symbol of success in Southwest France and a budding star of Argentina.

Customer Reviews
  1. New favorite Malbec!
    Product Rating
    I enjoyed this bottle of Malbec immensely! It was the first time tasting the 2018 vintage of Catena Paraje Altamira that Julian, my personal Sokolin consultant, had recommended. So did James Suckling with a 92+ rating. Wow! The bottle did not last too long! If the 2019 appellation is as good as James Suckling predicts, which is a good bet with now a 94 rating, it will be another winner!


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