The Catena family is one of the major and one of the most interesting players in the world of Argentinian wine. They produce a wide range of wines in all sorts of price range, with consistent quality at all levels, from the more generic Alamos label to the Catena Zapata wines, the top cuvées created by Nicolas Catena and his daughter Laura.
Now, I have very good friends. As a thank you for a small favor I’d forgotten about, my friend Marc gave me a bottle of the Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon. I was charmed and impressed, and gladly opened it a few days ago when I felt like an autumnal, substantial red.
The wine, which sells for close to 50$ in Canada, had a lot going for it. Bright fruit, intense aromas, good concentration, long-lasting flavors of blackberries and vanilla (from 18 months in 80% new oak), with a bit of leather and a touch of torrefaction. Smooth tannins and decent acidity made the wine very easy-drinking, despite its relatively high alcohol and rich texture. Nothing to complain about at any level.
Despite all its qualities, the Catena Alta had one thing lacking. All I could think about, thinking it and drinking it, was that it was like any high-end New World cabernet sauvignon. Rich, ripe, ample, flavorful, fruity, oaky. Solid in all technical respects. But I failed to find anything that made it feel specifically Argentinian or high-altitude. Its technical virtues seem to be its main failing. Behind all that shiny façade, it’s hard to feel any sense of place, any precise personality to the wine. So while I enjoyed it, I’m not very enclined to get myself another bottle.