A First Course in Wine: From Grape to Glass. Copyright 2013; Race Point Publishers, NY. 224 pages. Forward by Mario Batali.

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A Vertical Tasting of Catena Zapata a la Benjamin Button

Ask ten people what they know about wine from South America and the majority would say, “Malbec”.  Some might say,

Catena Zapata

Catena Zapata’s Adrianna Vineyard Malbec and flagship wine, Nicolas Catena Zapata

“Malbec from Argentina”.  Perhaps a few would chime, “Malbec from Argentina…goes well with meat”.  Needless to say, Argentinean Malbec has been carrying the weight of the entire continent, thanks in part to a vast sea of offerings and budget-friendly prices.  That’s all about to change.  Enter:  Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein.  One of the leading personalities in the world of wine, he’s just released his latest literary achievement, “Wines of South America:  The Essential Guide”.  In doing so, he’s unearthed the latest and greatest of South America and given the enthused wino a resource with which to navigate the local wine shops and restaurant wine lists en route to the ultimate South American wine experience.

Coinciding with the release of the book, Mr. Goldstein and his associates at Full Circle Wine Solutions hosted the inaugural, “South American Wines and Spirit Conference” – a 3-day fun-filled event consisting of master classes, producer-lead tastings, cocktail seminars, and more.  At the capstone tasting, attendees were treated to a unique vertical tasting of two of Catena Zapata’s most important wines:  Adrianna Vineyard Malbec and Catena Zapata Nicolás.  The wines were arranged in the following order:

  1. Adrianna Vineyard Malbec 2010
  2. Catena Zapata Nicolás 1999
  3. Adrianna Vineyard Malbec 2007
  4. Catena Zapata Nicolás 2002
  5. Adrianna Vineyard Malbec 2006
  6. Catena Zapata Nicolás 2006
  7. Adrianna Vineyard Malbec 2004
  8. Catena Zapata Nicolás 2010
Evan Goldstein's "Wines of South America"

Evan Goldstein’s “Wines of South America”

The Adrianna Vineyard Malbec was tasted from youngest to oldest and the Catena Zapata Nicolás – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec – tasted from oldest to youngest.  It was a great exercise in the correlation between the mind and the palate as we were analyzing the transition from young to old, and also from old to young while jockeying back and forth between the two.  In the Adrianna Vineyard Malbec we saw the progression and poetic decomposition of the wine as it went from young and fierce in its infancy of 2010 to ripe, mature, and distinct in the 2004 vintage.  Simultaneously we saw in reverse the aging qualities of the Catena Zapata Nicolás as the 1999 offered up tobacco, cedar, prunes, and super mature flavors while the 2010 was tightly wound with gripping tannins, biting deep black fruits, and fresh herbaceous and oak-filled tones.  Seeing the two wines intersect in the middle when tasting glasses four through six conjured up the mental stimulation of the story of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and the imaginative story of reverse aging.  The wines shared some common threads of rustic authenticity, but had starkly different tannin profiles and the tasting helped illuminate how Malbec sizes up in the world of heavyweight grapes and that the very best Malbec wines can go head to head with Cabernet.

My hat’s off to Mr. Goldstein and the team at Full Circle for the imaginative and strategic move to Benjamin Button it all the way home.  Pick up a copy of Mr. Goldstein’s book for the finest tutelage on South American juice to date.

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