We are in the middle of editing our episode from Argentina and seeing the pictures from our stay brings backs some really good memories. The fantastic nature, beautiful vineyards, lovely people and of course great wines. This week’s wine is one of my favourites from our trip.
When you visit Mendoza the first ting you are struck by is the mighty Andes mountains. The rise up like a gigantic wall that the city lies in the shadow of- Majestic and grand they define the city in so many ways. When driving around you will see vineyards almost everywhere. You get the sense that wine is very important here, both by what you see and what people are telling you. Everybody either works with wine or knows someone who does.
In 1992 Nicolas Catena Zapata wanted to challenge the traditional ways of making wine and thought about how he could “stress” the grapes more. As we know, grapes produce the best juice when they have difficult growing conditions. Around the city the grapes were doing fine, but no one had tried to plant further up in the mountains. So, he planted what has become the Adrianna vineyards at about 1450 meters above sea level. Here the climate is cooler, with hot days and cold nights. This stresses the grapes and makes for more concentrated grape juice. But also important was the varied terroir. Inspired by the French theory that quality depends mostly on terroir. The Catena winery did a lot of research into the terroir in and around Mendoza and especially in the high-altitude plots.
They made some startling discoveries: The alluvial soils from Mendoza are not homogenous. In other words, in the same vineyard, within short distances, there are both physical and chemical soil differences, resulting in vineyard lots or parcels with unique characteristics. As a result, each vineyard lot gives origin to its own unique wine with very specific flavours and aromas. Laura Catena, Nicolas Catena’s daughter, who herself is a doctor and biologist has had a research department instilled in the winery where they now are in the forefront of the world when it comes to scientifically understanding terroir and its impact on the wine.
The wines from these high-altitude vineyards were by far the best we tasted in Mendoza. Both the Malbec’s, but perhaps mostly the Chardonnays showed an uniqueness and crispness that I don’t think I had tasted in a Chardonnay before.