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The story of Catena Zapata is the story of Argentine wine

Updated: Dec 10, 2021

Great wines begin in the vineyard. Catena’s vision is to make rich and unforgettable wines that are true to the special place they come from. Founded in 1902, Argentina’s Bodega Catena Zapata is known for its pioneering role in resurrecting Malbec and in discovering extreme high-altitude terroirs in the Andean foothills of Mendoza.

When Nicolás Catena Zapata began running the family winery in the mid '60s, his grandfather and father were still making wines according to the old Italian traditions.

During his visiting economics scholar time at Berkeley, California, in the 1980s, Nicolás Catena had the opportunity to experience firsthand the Napa Valley wine revolution. A new generation of Californian producers had set out to make wines that were a quality equal or superior to that of the French.

To Nicolás Catena Zapata, this was something completely new. Right away he decided to carry out a similar project in Mendoza and abandoned the old Italian traditions and followed the Californian-French style.

Years later he has another vision, plant vineyards in the cooler areas of Mendoza. He basically had two options: either go south or climb up the mountain. And Nicolás chose to go upwards and plant at high altitude, in the region at almost 5,000 feet elevation. Nicolás named the new vineyard “Adrianna” in honor of his youngest daughter. The Grand Vin was born in Argentina.

These wines were completely different from wines sourced from lower altitudes, especially the Malbecs. In-depth study carried out by Dr. Laura Catena - fourth-generation vintner and managing director of the winery-, and the Catena Institute of Wine, showed that higher altitude wines had disproportionately higher levels of tannins.

And these heightened tannins gave the wines a flavor that was unique to extreme high altitude - these wines had a power, texture and richness that had never been found before in Argentina.

Photo courtesy of Catena Zapata Vineyards.

Today, the team at the Catena Institute of Wine is dedicated to studying every meter, every rock, every insect and microorganism in the Adrianna Vineyard, making it perhaps the most studied vineyard in the world.

The task of discovering and studying lots has allowed the Catenas to achieve a greater quality that comes from the purity of flavors. "We have gone deep into the classic French concept that attributes wine quality 100% to terroir," says Nicolás Catena Zapata.

Photo courtesy of Catena Zapata Vineyards.

So it should have been no surprise when the list of the World’s Most Admired Wine Brands 2020 was released, and Bodega Catena Zapata was named number one, topping the list of mega-brands from the Old World and the New. It was the first time a producer from South America had made the top 10, let alone come in first.

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