Argentina - The home of Malbec
Argentina is the fifth largest wine producer in the world, and growing on a yearly basis. It is famous for it's Malbec, in red and Torrontes, in white. Malbec started it's life in France, however, since it is a late ripening grape it struggled in Cahors to show it's full potential. This was due to the lack of heat and sunshine. In Argentina this is not an issue, with long sunny days and little rain; the conditions are perfect. Malbec really puts Argentina (or should I say Argentina put Malbec) on the wine map. What is even more encouraging is that even though Malbec grows perfectly in Mendoza, they also have world-class Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. I visited Mendoza earlier this year, let us see what they had in store for me.
I visited two vineyards whilst in Mendoza; Catena and El Enemigo. I was very impressed by Catena. Probably the most famous vineyard in Argentina, Catena is really a world class vineyard, and after visiting, I knew the best is yet to come. Agostina was our guide, and whilst talking to her I could really feel the passion and love towards the wine they produce. Catena produces entry-level, premium and ultra-premium wines at an extremely high level rarely seen outside of Europe or California. The highlight for Agostina was the Adrianna vineyards where the ultra-premium wine was grown. It was founded by Nicolas Catena, and located at 5000 ft. The Adrianna vineyard is planted with Malbec, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and other varietals. It is by far the most interesting terroir in Argentina and is easily the equivalent of the Burgundy Grand Cru of the south. This terroir was beyond special.
Catena has both domestic and international products. I found it interesting that they produced different wines for the domestic market compared to the international one. Agostina mentioned that certain wines sold better domestically compared to internationally. Since most of my readers are located outside of Argentina, I will focus mainly on international products. Catena produces the following ranges:
Catena Appellation - Regional village wines
Catena wines - These are blends of different vineyards
Catena Alta - Premium Catena wines which are hand selected and are produced in a limited quantity
Catena Zapata - Ultra-premium wines, mainly focused on high altitude vineyards
Adrianna vineyard - Ultra-premium wines solely focused on the Adrianna vineyard, located at high altitude
Catena is constantly in the learning stage, Agostina informed me. There was a huge wine cellar of different Catena wines which would be opened every 5 years or so to understand how wines develop and age. This would then be fed back into the winemaking process. They are already making world-class wines, however, they felt they could achieve so much more. I left feeling that this vineyard will only get better and better. The attitude they have shows that they do not want to just produce the best wines in Argentina, but the best wines in the world. They are definitely heading in the right direction.
Next stop was El Enemigo, a project started by Adrianna Catena and Alejandro Vigil. The focus of El Enemigo was to elevate the fascinating grape of Cabernet Franc. Cabernet Franc has always been the little brother to Cabernet Sauvignon, however, in 2009, Adrianna and Alejandro vowed to change that. They wanted to do what Argentina had done for Malbec but to Cabernet Franc. El Enemigo makes a range of wines, sourcing the grapes at different altitudes. These wines are made using mainly Cabernet Franc. Alongside Cabernet Franc, they also make Bonarda and a Chardonnay. Overall, I found these Cabernet had a lot more depth and they felt fresher compared to their Loire counterparts. I could not think of a better style of wine to go with the some fantastic Argentinians steak. The standouts for me were the El Enemigo Chardonnay (94 points) and The Gran Enemigo (93 points).
I came for the Malbec, however, left with a deeper understanding of how advanced Argentina is. I expected to be impressed, however, I was blown away by how seriously they were taking their winemaking. They were pushing the boundaries of winemaking and were constantly looking at ways of improving. Malbec was not the only grape though, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Pinot Noir. were being produced Argentina is just getting started and they are already producing world-class wines. I cannot wait to see what they produce in the coming years.