Famous big wine producers often produce low-end wines to bulk out their production and increase profits. Very often these wines are worthy only to be sloshed into that underwhelming casserole your other half made last night or palmed off on chain-smoking relatives who don’t care what they drink as long as it’s wet and strong. There are, though, a few notable exceptions.
The venerable Bodegas Catena Zapata has played a crucial role in raising the profile of Argentine Malbec internationally. They produce several exceptional wines like the Adrianna Vineyard Mundus Bacillus Terrae Malbec and the Adrianna Vineyard White Bones Chardonnay which are consistently highly lauded by Robert Parker and his ilk (he typically gives them a rather immodest 98 or 97 points). I won’t go too much into the history here as I plan to cover it in another of my Wine Stories. If you’re keen to learn more you could do worse than pouring a generous glass of vino and watching Laura Catena speak about her passion for the vine and how Bodegas Catena Zapata came to be:
Leaving the Parker points aside, perhaps an even more remarkable fact about Catena is that its moderately-priced wines also receive plenty of praise. One of my favourite everyday wines, the Alamos Malbec, is consistently rated as amongst the best value Argentine reds.
With an average price tag of just £7 or around $7 to $8 for my American friends, this isn’t a wine that intoxicates your soul with its promise of depth, refinement and mysterious sublimity. Rather, it’s the kind of wine to bring a bit of punchy summery cheer to a weekday night or to win dinner party brownie points. Since vintages don’t vary too much in Mendoza (no way near as much as in Bordeaux or Burgundy, for example) and it’s made by a big producer, you can expect something reasonably similar in every bottle. Of course factors like storage, transportation and different production facilities will make some difference, but you can typically expect a meaty mouthful of ripe, spicy blackberries and plums topped off with chocolate and black pepper.
This wine is, in many ways, the “classic” Malbec – soft, approachable but with plenty of power. Just the thing for a nice hunk of meat (or just a nice hunk, actually).