Bodega Catena Zapata
In anticipation of episode 2 of The Wine Show taking place in Argentina, France and Japan, we thought we’d take the time to introduce you to an Argentinian wine icon: Bodega Catena Zapata, one of our partners in Mendoza, a city with wide, tree-lined streets and modern art-deco buildings located in the heart of Argentina’s wine country. Famed for its Malbecs and other red wines, the region is dotted with numerous bodegas (wineries) amongst which is the family-owned Bodega Catena Zapata, one of most long standing wineries in the area, founded in 1902 by Italian immigrant Nicola Catena.
Photo Credit: Bodega Catena Zapata
Armed with nothing more than optimism and a vision, Nicola planted his first Malbec vineyard in Mendoza, with the conviction that it would find its hidden splendour in the Argentine Andes - it would take almost a century for Nicola to be proven right. Catena’s son Domingo took over the winery after his father retired, and turned the winery into one of the biggest vineyard holders in Mendoza. However in the 1960s the Argentinian economy was in a bad place, with inflation rates at an all-time high, making it hard for Domingo to keep the winery afloat. As the years of economic turmoil continued, it was Domingo’s son Nicolàs, who took over the winery. To keep the bodega alive, Nicolàs concentrated on expanding distribution throughout Argentina. However after a sabbatical year in California during the 1980s, he came back with a different goal. At that time, France’s only rival on the wine front was California, other than that no one had even dreamed of challenging the French nation. Nicolàs set out to change this, and started laying the groundwork to turn Argentina into the preeminent wine nation it is today. After selling a big chunk of the business, Nicolàs scouted for the best places to plant vineyards in the Mendoza region and eventually settled on Gualtallary Alto, 5000’ above sea level. Despite his own vineyard manager telling him that Malbec would never ripen at this altitude, Nicolàs went through with his idea. His stubbornness paid off and the grapes ripened beautifully, with the high altitudes providing unique flavours and aromas. It wasn’t before 1994 that Nicolàs was satisfied enough to make the first Catena Malbec, which proved to be a tremendous success, receiving praise from some of the world’s most famous critics and ranking as Argentina’s #1 Malbec in Wall Street Journal’s first ever feature on Malbec. To this day, the Catena family remain pioneers in the Argentinian wine world, encouraging and funding research of grape varieties, soils and more in the hopes of truly understanding every aspect of winemaking.
Visit Bodega Catena Zapata
The winery is easily distinguishable by its pyramid-like design inspired by Mayan architecture, and is open all week (except on Sundays) for visits and tours. There are three different packages available for you to choose from. The Single Vineyard Tasting is the cheapest tour on offer, and includes a visit of the vineyard as well as a tasting of 4 single vineyard wines. The Nicolás Catena Zapata Tasting is the second package, and includes a tour of the winery as well as a barrel tasting and a guided tasting of Catena Alta Chardonnay, Malbec Argentino and Nicolás Catena Zapata wines. Finally, the most premium of tours is the Art of Malbec Tasting which includes everything in the Nicolàs Catena Zapata Tasting package plus a vineyard explanation, a cheese board and a platter of regional charcuterie to enjoy during the tasting.
Fancy visiting one of Mendoza’s most successful wineries? Book your tour here.
If you dream of visiting any of the locations visited by The Wine Show team, check out our dedicated web page for tours, travel guides and more!