Bodega Catena Zapata has been instrumental both in the development of fine wine production in Argentina and in realising the full potential of the Malbec grape.
Nicola Catena first moved to Mendoza in 1898 and planted his first Malbec vines in 1902. These Malbec vines are very special, having been first brought over to Argentina from Bordeaux in the 1850s – before phylloxera destroyed these clones in both Bordeaux and Cahors. Although it was – before phylloxera – used as significant blending component in Bordeaux, Nicola Catena believed that it could achieve greatness on its own in Mendoza. It is this vision that has been realised by Laura and her father, Nicolás Catena Zapata.
Inspired by time in California (where he was a visiting economics scholar) in the 1980s, in the wake of the Judgement of Paris tasting – where Californian wines triumphed over those of Bordeaux and Burgundy, Nicolás Catena set out to create wines that would stand up to France’s best. Returning home to the family business, he shifted the estate’s focus away from volume, seeking out high-altitude sites in Mendoza that could produce the quality he felt was possible.
While the emphasis was – and is – on the winery’s special pre-phylloxera Malbec clones, that were once so central to the quality of Bordeaux, the estate’s top wine – Nicolás Catena Zapata – is a more modern Cabernet-led Bordeaux blend. It was first made in 1997, inspired by the outstanding quality of the Cabernet that year: the resulting wine went on to win various competitions, as well as the praise of consumers and critics, and is today one of Argentina’s most collected cuvées.
Bodega Catena Zapata is today the oldest family estate in Argentina, now run by Laura Catena, Nicolás’s daughter and the fourth generation of the family.