Catena Zapata, Mendoza (Argentina) “Nicolás Catena Zapata” 2016

($99, Winebow):  There is no question that the Catena family is among the leading producers in Argentina — and perhaps the single leader of the pack.  Nicolás Catena brought Argentine wines into the modern area by discovering what is universally accepted now: planting vines at higher altitudes in warm climates reduces the likelihood of harvesting over ripe grapes and making jammy wines.  This wine, their flagship, ranks with the great wines of the world.  Both powerful and suave, it’s a joy to taste — and drink — even at its youthful age.  It is intense, yet not heavy or overdone.  Floral and fresh, a wonderful mix of mineral-like flavors intertwine with fruity ones.  Nothing stands out, yet the wine is outstanding.  Its glorious texture reveals the care that must have gone into selecting the grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon (61%), Malbec (31%) and Cabernet Franc, which come from three vineyards, the youngest of which was planted 25 years ago.  The modest 13.6 percent stated-alcohol shows just how right Catena’s decision to plant at higher elevations was.  And it reminds us that you don’t need super ripe grapes to make a super wine.  What is baffling is why they insist on the over-sized bottle, which empty weighs 50 percent more than an empty bottle of Lafite Rothschild.  Nicolás Catena Zapata speaks volumes by itself.  Like the Lafite, it needs no pretentious packaging.
97 Michael Apstein Jan 5, 2021