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Visiting Mendoza, Argentina
Part 4: Catena and the Adrianna Vineyard

Catena is one of Argentinaís most celebrated wineries. We visited the Adrianna vineyard, which is their highest, at 1500 metres above sea level in its highest part. Itís 115 hectares, with Malbec the principal variety, as well as a bit of Pinot Noir, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot.

Catena's Adrianna Vineyard, Mendoza - 1400 m

Hail netting

Soils here are sandy and shallow. Leaf removal is practiced on the side of the row that gets the morning sun. Thus the grapes benefit from some UV exposure, but arenít burned by the afternoon sun. Row spacing is mostly 2 m ◊ 1.5 m (4000 vines per hectare), but the newer blocks are 1.8 m ◊ 1 m (5500Ė7000 plants/hectare).

The altitude helps ripen the stems, and so almost a third of the red wines made from this vineyard have the stems included in the fermentation. Stem tannin can add really great structure to the wines.

Jeff Mausbach and Alejandro Sejanovich

Adriannaís key signature is that it adds aromatics and minerality to the wine. The best bits of the vineyard, which contribute to Catena Alta and Zapata, are protected by hail netting. This costs US$8000 per hectare and the nets are supposed to last for 15 years. Hail is a significant threat in Mendoza, and there was evidence of hail damage in some of the unprotected blocks.  

Mariela Molinari and Alejandro pour for us; Jeff looks on

The wines

These wines were fantastic, with lovely definition and purity.  

Catena Alta Chardonnay 2005
This comes from the Adrianna vineyard. Very rich, intense nose but it has some minerally freshness too, alongside the toasty richness. The palate is fine with nice rich mealy, concentrated fruit balanced by fresh minerality and citrus notes. 91/100

Catena Zapata Malbec Nicasia Vineyard 2004 
This comes from Altamira, in the west of La Consulta. Lovely purity to the fruit on the nose, with violet notes and focused aromatics. The palate is fresh with lovely focus and elegance. Pure, concentrated and balanced with smooth tannins and bright fruit. Fantastic stuff. 93/100

Catena Zapata Malbec Adrianna Vineyard Gualtallary 2004
Lovely elegant aromatics: itís beautifully floral with pure fruit. Fantastic fruit purity on the palate with lots of tannin, but itís really smooth tannin. Elegant and deep with real presence. 94/100

Catena Zapata Malbec 2004
A blend from two lots. Delightfully aromatic with lovely floral notes and some meaty spiciness in the background. Pure and elegant. The palate is concentrated and smooth with fresh dark fruits and brilliant balance. Fantastic stuff with real definition and purity. 94/100

Wines tasted 03/08  
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