Medium copper color; strawberry, raspberry, cherry, cranberry on the nose; strawberry, raspberry, lime, cherry, fruit salad, brioche on the palate.
Brut nature, which means dosage is skipped after disgorgement, making it the driest sparkling possible. Crisp, excellent acidity (3.25 pH). Persistent tiny bubbles—this is made using traditional method (second fermentation in the bottle produces the bubbles). Medium body; silky in the mouth; made from malbec—this is Argentine wine—and pinot noir; 12.5% ABV
Alma Negra means “Black Soul” and reflects an early emphasis on the inky blackness of wines made with bonarda grapes. The initial brand name was “Misterio” and the mask on the label was a symbol for a hidden identity or mystery in the bottle. Brand moved past that, still delivers quirky wines. Bravo for that.
Ernesto Catena, owner of Ernesto Catena Vineyards and the Alma Negra brand, is the eldest son of Nicolás Catena of Catena Zapata. You likely are more familiar with his sister, Dr. Laura Catena, who runs Catena brands (sold in U.S. under the Alamos brand). I have written about this distinguished and talented Argentinian family many times.
The Catena family is really intelligent. Ernesto’s dad, Dr. Nicolás Catena Zapata was a professor of economics at UC-Berkeley. His sister, Dr. Laura Catena became is emergency room physician with degrees from Harvard and Stanford. She still practices medicine in California while heading one of the largest Argentine wine brands in the world.
Ernesto earned a bachelors degree in computer science and economy, then a master’s degree in design in Milan, then another degree in history in London. He is described as “tireless and avid reader, painter, art collector, horseman, polo player and archer.” He started his own vineyard to reflect his belief there was a niche for: “high quality, a different style from the majority of wines being made at the time, smaller volumes and a strong brand concept.”
Conservation is a key element of Ernesto’s vision: “Over the years, Ernesto and his team designed their biodynamic farm and vineyard as a sculpture to be gazed upon from the sky, similar to how the Maya and the Inca designed their cities to be enjoyed by the gods. Their vineyard is surrounded by natural flora and fauna that help them achieve a state of harmony and equilibrium. They pay homage to the Sun in their Rose Garden and to the Moon in their Vine Labyrinth with music and dancing.”
Alejandro Kuscharoff is the winemaker and vineyard manager. He comes from a family of Mendoza winemakers. During college, he worked as a winemaker on family projects. After graduation, he came to the United States to learn winemaking techniques in California. In 2012, he joined Ernesto Catena Vineyards as winemaker and vineyard manager.
Alma Negra Brut Nature Rosé Sparkling Wine, Mendoza NV is delightful, bright, rich, delicious. The malbec-pinot noir blend is non-standard and works nicely. Stylish, mysterious bottle; lovely color; persistent bubbles; very crisp acidity make this an ideal aperitif. It also sets it up as superb food wine with almost any fare you throw at it. $19-22