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Effects from Altitude and the Bonarda Grape with Mariela Molinari from Catena Zapata

Bodega Catena Zapata has high elevation vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina producing world-class wines. We spoke to Mariela Molinari, assistant winemaker, to find out how altitude affects wine.

The Catena Zapata family has been making wine for 4 generations. The 3rd generation, led by Nicolas Catena, changed the direction of the winemaking and winery to focus on producing premium wines. In the 1980s they researched the Mendoza region. While most of the area is like a desert they found that by using the mountains they could plant vines higher up, with cooler temperatures and greater sun exposure. As you go higher you start to get cooler temperatures during the day and during the night. During the day its important the plant doesn't get over 31/32 celsius, because it will shut down. At night, at altitude the plant rests and has longer maturation time and hang time which produces better flavours, aromas and polyphenols. Antioxidants include resveratrol which are found in high concentration in Catena Malbec. At altitude the UV light is intense and when the plant is exposed it reacts to protect the seed in the berry. It thickens the skin and produces more cells and components and a higher concentration of antioxidants. The cool climate at altitude allows the acidity in the grape to be preserved but you still get good temperatures (30 degrees) during the ripening season to ripen the grapes.

Catena has planted different vineyards from 860 metres elevation up to 1,500m. Blending the same grape from different microclimates gives a different expression of the grape. Catena emphasize their terroir, sun exposure, temperature pattern which are more important factors on the wine than soil type.

Catena's main wines are Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. They are also working with Italian grape varieties, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.


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