Catena Zapata Adrianna vineyard in the Uco Valley in Argentina
Catena Zapata Adrianna Vineyard is a living monument of altitude viticulture. It has been called “the most studied vineyard in the world” and “the vineyard of South America Grand Cru. “What makes this place so special?
“Grand Cru” qualities
In the early 1990s, Nicolás Catena Zapata researched this site – about 5,000 feet above sea level in Gualtallary, located at the northern limit of Tupungato in Uco Valley in Argentina. A few years later, Dr Laura Catena, fourth generation winemaker, doctor and author, launched the founding project of the Catena Wine Institute. “Today, the Catena Institute of Wine team is dedicated to studying every meter, rock, insect and microorganism in the Adrianna vineyard, making it perhaps the most studied vineyard in the world. “, according to the Catena team.
Like all great vineyards, the pedigree comes from the terroir. And at Adrianna Vineyard, the key element is elevation. But altitude alone doesn’t create a great wine (or even a bad one) and understanding what makes this site exceptional has been the goal of the Catena team for decades. For many winemakers, the evidence found in the pudding might be enough, but Dr Catena and her team are motivated to learn and communicate more.
“The concept of a Grand Cru is a French term which is now widely used, as restaurant, for example, ”says Dr. Catena. “Is it now ready to be used internationally as a concept?” “Without implying that Grand Cru The terminology is up to the bottle, Catena wonders if some vineyards (perhaps Adrianna Vineyard) have earned a place in this rung, regardless of formal classifications. East Grand Cru a construction as much as a definition, at this stage? And could empirical observations of a given plot or vineyard raise it to Grand Cru status, outside the French system? These are concepts that Catena and others are considering.
Larry Stone is a master sommelier and founder of Lingua Franca, a winery in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. He says the concept of Grand Cru outside the bureaucratic designation is valid. “There are so many things in [the term] that we don’t have another word for it that really encompasses what it is, ”says Stone. “I think there is a difference between officially describing yourself as a Grand Cru vs describe what you are looking for in terms of Grand Cru qualities.”
Stone says a collective understanding – coming from multiple farmers working with a given plot – can lead to a movement to create the most excellent wine possible from that space he describes as a “historic level of achievement.”
Plant “higher and cooler”
Still relatively young in the records of wine history, Adrianna Vineyard continues to mature beyond the traditional meaning of the word. Arguably, most wine drinkers, even the most educated, wouldn’t take Adrianna’s name out of their hat when asked to name the best grow sites in the world. But the Catena team, and others who are witnessing this site’s ever-growing footprint, believe this is due to a nascent communication and education canon. If more consumers understand that this is a site with grandiose believed chops, this helps people identify that they are drinking something really special.
Wines produced from package (plots or plots) within Adrianna Vineyard exhibit distinct flavors and aromas that separate them from wines made from neighbors package. Adrianna Vineyard White Bones Chardonnay, for example, comes from rows of vines growing in soil covered with lime deposits and the bones of fossilized animals. Vintage after vintage, this version has unique aromatic and mineral impressions – for example, the palate of the 2018 offers a grassy, minty and minty character that is purely different from the creamy and floral Chardonnay produced in the nearby White Stones. package, which is gritty and rocky – and not a whiff of minty herbs to be found.
“The Grand Cru The concept refers to distinctive wines which can only come from a particular and small place, and which are worthy of aging and deep, ”explains Catena. “I think we made this kind of wine in our Adrianna vineyard.” She cites different White Stones and White Bones Chardonnay, Fortuna Terrae, Mundus Bacillus Terrae and River Stones Malbec as evidence celebrated by the global consumer market. “These wines, and our Nicolás Catena Zapata Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec blend, are already collected in the Americas, Europe and Asia.”
High altitude and climate change
Now is the time for global recognition of high altitude sites like Adrianna Vineyard. When Nicolás Catena Zapata planted these vines in the early 1990s, many believed Bordeaux grape varieties – like the Argentinian Malbec grape – had no chance of ripening under these conditions. But the particular composition of the soil, as well as the balance obtained thanks to the hours of intense sunshine and the cool climate, indeed produce fully ripe tannins and a balance of acidity and alcohol.
Stone notes that the modern wine world is on the alert for the impact of climate change, and that sites considered one-sided decades ago are once again being considered. “With climate change, we will find that many more sites can be at the level of 1st vintage Where Grand Cru,” he says.
“Look at what we did in Argentina,” says Catena. “We are entering an era of climate change” which is a different environment than when her father planted “higher and cooler” than the norm in the 1980s and 1990s. She concedes that the “cowboy” nature of Argentina, with restrictions and economies unique to Europe, makes wine regulations a different beast than France. While it is possible to plant “higher and cooler” in some parts of Europe, the codification of appellations does not always allow new sites to benefit from the most respected designation of origin.
But similar to the conversation about the term Grand Cru, there is potential in sites that don’t have a name to hang on to, if consumers are offered an understanding beyond the label. Adrianna Vineyard is an attractive point in this dynamic. “I have no doubt that certain terroirs in Argentina can make wines of elegance and character,” says Catena. “Wines that have the structure, acidity and complexity to age for decades and maybe even a century.”