Food

Alamos — The Wines of Catena

Thursday, January 19, 2012    

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The Catena Family has become synonymous with high quality wines from Argentina. In 2009 Decanter magazine chose Nicolás Catena as Man of the Year, crediting him with changing the direction of Argentina's wine industry.

The Background:

Nicolás Catena's Grandfather Nicola Catena sailed from Italy to Argentina in 1898; he firmly believed that he had found the promised land in Mendoza, where he planted his first Malbec vineyard in 1902. Malbec had been a blending grape in Bordeaux. But Nicola suspected it would find its hidden splendour in the Argentine Andes. Domingo, his son, inherited that dream and took the family winery to the next level, becoming one of the largest vineyard holders in Mendoza. By the 1960s, however, Familia Catena was struggling. The Argentine economy was in shambles and inflation rates were soaring.

Nicolás Catena who took over the family vineyards in the mid '60s has been the quiet revolutionary charting the family's path to the new frontier of winemaking, drawing on lessons learned from the land and in the classroom, then applying his education to dare to challenge the conventional wisdom.

Select Brands recently acquired the distribution rights for the Catena wine brands in Jamaica, and while Catena was already available on the local market their economy brand Alamos will be on our shelves shortly.

Alamos began life as a brand called Alamos Ridge under the previous name of the Catena family winery called Bodegas Esmeralda. California's Paul Hobbs was the consulting winemaker until the late 1990s. His influence might still be evident in the Alamos wines with its combined New World-style fruit with an Argentinean sense of place.

Last weekend we had the opportunity to taste side by side the Catena wines and the Alamos wines.

The Alamos winemaking philosophy is to make flavourful, drinkable wines that preserve each varietal's distinctive aroma, flavour and texture. Some of the Alamos wines acquire additional complexity from moderate oak aging. The Alamos winemaking team aims to make wines that are as good as wines twice their price.

The Pour:

The 2010 Alamos Malbec has a dark purple colour with violet highlights. The nose offers bright black cherry aromas with light floral notes and a touch of toast. The 'mouth feel' is full and rich, with ripe, concentrated cassis and black raspberry fruit interwoven with a touch of chocolate and sweet spice from light oak aging. The finish shows ripe, silky tannins.

The 2010 Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon has a dark purple colour with ruby red tones. The nose is full of ripe red fruits, sweet spice and a touch of tobacco. The 'mouth feel' shows red currant and cassis fruit layered with notes of cedar and espresso beans. The finish is soft and sweet, with finely grained tannins adding structure and length

The 2010 Alamos Chardonnay shows a straw-yellow colour with light shades of green. The nose offers ripe tropical fruit aromas with citrus and floral notes. The 'mouth feel' is full and rich, with concentrated ripe pear and fig fruit mingled with vanilla and sweet spice oak flavours. The finish is clean and fresh with bright, crisp acidity.

While the Catena Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were very well received, the top wine for the evening was the celebrated 2009 Catena Malbec. This wine scored 91 Points in Wine Spectator who described it as "A rich red, with ripe layers of liner torte, plum pudding and fig paste flavours backed by notes of mesquite, olive paste and grilled herbs. Grippy tannins add weight to the long, vibrant finish. Drink now through 2013."

Catena Malbec

The Catena family has conducted extensive research into the soils and microclimates of Mendoza's high-altitude wine country in the foothills of the Andes mountains. At different altitudes, the family's Malbec vineyards express a unique profile of aromas and flavours: the ripe plum fruit flavours and silky texture of the Angelica vineyard (2,850' elevation); the dark fruit character and pepper notes of the La Pirámide vineyard (3,100' elevation); the black cherry aromas and excellent structure of the La Consulta vineyard (3,870' elevation); the explosive floral aromatics full, concentrated 'mouth feel' of the Adrianna vineyard (5,000'). The blend of these components creates a wine of unique character that has balance, concentration and a strong varietal identity.

Chris Reckord is an entrepreneur & wine enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to creckord@gmail.com. Follow us on http://twitter.com/DeVineWines

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