Catena’s Appellation Series brings interesting new options to the $23 range
I came across this wine as I was searching for promising 2018 bottles. Renowned sommelier Andres Rosberg had advised me that 2018 was an incredible year in Mendoza – that if you couldn’t make great wine in 2018 you weren’t really trying.
By now, you’re familiar with Catena’s Appellation Series, which has been mentioned on these pages before. Among Catena’s regional varietals, the one from the Altamira area has soaked up the most praise and the highest scores – because of the minerality and the real sense of terroir you can enjoy at a relatively low price. I tried the 2018 (rated 93+ by Luis Gutierrez of RobertParker.com) and was fairly blown away. So much so that I split a case with my dinner partners who were enjoying the bottle with me.
Here’s what Gutierrez had to say: “The star of the appellation range is usually the Malbec from Altamira, and the 2018 Appellation Paraje Altamira Malbec does not disappoint. One of the plots was harvested quite early, and the rest fermented with full clusters and finished fermentation without skins, which seems to have added to the elegance/ethereal character of the wine. It’s expressive and floral, varietal, and with the full chalky texture that is a distinct characteristic of Altamira. It’s tasty, the tannins are polished and there is an almost salty sensation in the finish. 36,000 bottles produced.”
So when I went looking for more, the retailer was out of the 2018 but had the 2019, also very highly rated by Gutierrez at 93.
He said: “Following the path of the 2018, the 2019 Appellation Paraje Altamira Malbec is phenomenal. It shows freshness, elegance, balance, complexity and nuance as well. It’s seamless, precise and ethereal with lots of inner energy and light. As the 2018 was, it’s expressive and floral, varietal and with the full chalky texture that is a distinct characteristic of Altamira. It’s tasty, the tannins are polished and there is an almost salty sensation in the finish. It was bottled in April 2020, and volume has now grown to 54,000 bottles.”
So judging from the reviews, I was expecting much the same thing.
I bought a bottle of the 2019 to share with my new friends at El Viñedo Local, a South American restaurant in Atlanta.
Dude. These two wines are so different.
The 2018 was love at first taste, straight out of the bottle. You sensed the minerality and complexity, but it was accessible and enjoyable right away. The 2019 was a completely different wine. It was so, austere. Almost off-putting at first taste. It took a full 15 minutes in glass to open up and turn into a really enjoyable wine.
What’s the difference? The extra year of age? Normally you would expect an older wine to need more oxygen and time, but not in this case.
I firmly prefer the 2018, but the later year is definitely interesting, and want to see what another year or two of age brings to this promising bottle.