Catena Alamos Malbec Mendoza 2015

Dark inky-red color with some translucence; plum and violets on the nose; plum, black cherry, blackberry on the palate.

Medium body, concentrated flavors approaching jammy, smooth tannins, some acidity, bit of black-red currant bite on the finish, likely from the splash of bonarda grapes; toasty oak in the background along with a few chocolate/mocha hints and some vanilla. Main grape is malbec, but there is some syrah for color and character and that bonarda. Bonarda is only grown in Argentina and is Argentina’s second-most important red grape (behind malbec); it has soft tannin, low alcohol, velvety palate, intense color, and fresh red fruit aromas.

The Catena family makes this in Argentina, where they have made wine in Mendoza since immigrating from Italy more a century ago. Dr. Nicolás Catena Zapata and his daughter, Laura, run the winery today. They are winemakers and much more. Dr. Catena was a professor of economics at UC-Berkeley in the 1980s and Dr. Laura Catena was an emergency room physician with degrees from Harvard and Stanford before she returned to the family wine business as head of research and development. Laura led the winery in developing high altitude malbec, from which this wine is made. Catena is particularly notable for its high altitude vineyards, some at 5,000 feet in the foothills of the Andes.

The father and daughter established the Catena Institute of Wine to scientifically develop Argentinian vines and wines in 2013 as an evolution of the department of research and development established in 1995. The institute collaborates with UC-Davis in its R&D efforts. Wine Enthusiast named Catena the New World Winery of the Year in 2010 and Decanter Magazine named Nicolás its Man of the Year in 2009. Robert Parker notes: “When all is said and done, Catena Zapata is the Argentina winery of reference—the standard of excellence for comparing all others.”

You will notice some name issues; the wine distributed by Gallo in the U.S. is labeled Alamos (Spanish word for poplar/cottonwood tree); the winery label is Catena; the official name of the winery is Bodega Catena Zapata (bodega is Spanish for winery).

Gallo distributes in the United States, so you should be able to easily find this. The Mendoza wine region accounts for two-thirds of Argentina’s wine production; it is a semi-arid desert (eight-inch annual rainfall), so vines are irrigated with meltwater from the Andes; some of the water is delivered by canals dating from the 1500s. With vineyard elevations ranging from 1,000 to 5,000 feet, Mendoza is one of the world’s enchanting, magical wine regions.

Alamos Malbec Mendoza 2015 is ripe, consumer-focused, value-priced malbec blend. $9-13

Catena Wines webpage (go to the Press page for a very good video: “Catena Alta Film.”)

Other photos: Catena Winery; Dr. Laura Catena; Dr. Catena and wife Elena