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Time to shine…

“Argentine wines are at the level of the so called first class”

July 13, 2012 by Alejandro Vigil | in News, Opinions

Alejandro Vigil, chief winemaker at Catena Zapata, participated in the 2nd International Cabernet Symposium in Napa Valley. In this article he presents his conclusions on this event, and talks about Argentina’s cabernets with regard to other countries’.

It’s time to shine…It has been 11 years since I first traveled to Napa Valley. I remember that I was asked at a cellar if our language was Portuguese and if Rio was our capital city. Few people knew about Malbec, and it was difficult for them to imagine that there was Cabernet Sauvignon planted in Argentina. Two years ago I attended the 1st International Cabernet Symposium in which talks were given about Bordeaux, Napa terroir, geology and vertical tastings of the great wines of France and Napa.

This year, Catena Zapata was invited to talk about Cabernet Sauvignon in Argentina. Those invited to participate in the Symposium are the most influential people in the wine world; you could run into the owner, marketing managers, sales staff and the technical team of wineries such as Opus One, Palmer, Staglin, Margoux, Antinori and Marquez de Carrascal.

The focal points of the debate were very similar to those discussed during the Argentina Wine Awards: alcohol levels, use of oak, zoning, understanding of each zone, vine-growing statistics in each zone. At first it was all a big surprise, but then I realized it all evolve around the same topic, human intervention: the how, when and why.

The day came for us to give our presentation and show several Cabernet Sauvignons from different regions of Mendoza, also the 2005 Catena Alta and 2009 Nicolas Catena Zapata. Though our wines rose to the occasion, we felt the need to test them with the panel of experts. The test incredible and very welcome by the participants, this way we spent the entire morning answering specific questions about our country and viticulture.

Going deeper into my experience in the 2nd International Cabernet Symposium, I would like to share some of my thoughts so as to encourage debate over the future of our region; of course this is the humble view of someone who hasn’t been involved in this activity for long, although it has been all my life.

Bordeaux vintages that achieved the best scores contained high alcohol levels. This way, a Cot Esturnel could reach 14.6º, while the less-praised wines had 13º or less. This is especially interesting since we are taking the opposite direction; part of my philosophy is to bring down alcohol levels. This is not my opinion; it is what I observed in the Symposium.

  • These best scores, for example the 2000 vintage, didn’t evolve as most of the participants expected. Instead, those regarded as regular, showed an incredible elegance and tipicity.
  • Argentine wines are at the level of the so called first class, hence the title “Time to shine…”
  • Our production costs are very similar to theirs, but the average price of a case is 5 to 10 times higher than ours, and this will bring serious problems in the future.
  • There exists a strong trend for natural wines, with almost no human intervention. Argentina could take advantage of this due to its climatological conditions.
  • The whole world is talking about zones, is it the beginning of the end of varieties? I don’t know, but it seems that everyone is paying more attention to the zone rather than the variety.

Translation: Rocío Acosta

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