Two romantics-a winemaker (Alejandro Vigil, Chief winemaker and researcher for Catena Zapata since 2002)and a historian (Adrianna Catena, an Oxford scholar) - go back in time to capture an era when European immigrants recently settled in Argentina, sought to make wines as fine as, and may be even finer than, those of their homelands. They want their wines taste good enough for listening Mozart and reading Cronopios.
Propelled by the motivations of these 2 people who got such credentials under their belts, their wines have to be good! Alejandro the winemaker has been, and still is, holding the highest rating ever given to a pure Cabernet Franc wine by Robert Parker, who awarded that to El Gran Enemigo El Gran Enemigo from Gualtallary(Mendoza), the last wine we write in this piece.
If you may have decided to give the El Enemigo and their Cabernet Franc a chance, let's hope we pay even more respect for their history and tradition. Let's stop all the clocks, screw wine dogmatism and 'old-seafoodism'(excuse us for this vulgar bit of local Chinglish creativeness), give complete irreverence towards the status quo, and, by doing that, we are giving ourselves a chance too.
Vintage 2012 for Mendoza is a good one. All these 3 wines are made, to quote Alejandro and Adriana, 'in honor of the old Pomerol style where Cabernet Franc was blended with the other Bordeaux varieties.' Indeed, we feel that each one is different and unique. Think Cheval Blanc, albeit grown and made in Argentina. Think Pomerol.Think about the enjoyment and the satisfaction, from a practical front, that you are getting for that level of wine at a real fraction of the prices.
How are these 3 wines different to each other?
Cabernet Franc based, El Enemigo Gran Enemigo 2012 is designed with more complexities from start: some 73% Cabernet Franc + 12% Cabernet Sauvignon+ 10% Petit Verdot + 5% Malbec. All vines sourced from Tupungato. Vine density for all 3 grapes is 10000 per ha. Vine density for the 4th grape Petit Verdot is 6000 per ha. This wine tastes very different because of the soil. Cabernet Franc is on Calcareous, rocky soil. Malbec is on Sandy Loam, with limestone base and rocky soil. Petit Verdot is on Sandy soil. Ageing is 18 months in French and American Oak, 35% new. Acidity seems slightly lower than El Enemigo Gran Enemigo Agrelo 2012, the wine that follows this tasting. Vinification for this wine is as follows: cold maceration for 5 days, average maceration for 23 days, 30% whole bunch press,using French oak barrels 2nd and 3rd use. At least 4 different harvest times (1.5 month between the first and the last one), which seem meticulous. The result is an elegant and tasty wine of adequate complexities, presenting sweet aromas of black ripen fruits with hints of vanilla and chocolate. The mouthfeel is sweet with structured, persistent tannins due to the natural acidity of this wine, leading into a fruity and long finish of over 30 seconds.Subtle oak treatment.
JAMES SUCKLING | 97
A dense and muscular red but shows fabulous texture and form. Full body, firm and velvety tannins and a length that is splendid and sophisticated. Needs two or three years to soften but so great.
Also Cabernet Franc based, El Enemigo Gran Enemigo Agrelo 2012 is added with a dash of Malbec(15%). Vine density is not high: only 6000 vines per ha. Both grapes, Cabernet Franc and Malbec, are on clay soil, so the palate has a bit of coolness and perceived alcohol is like 13%, though the actual is 14%. Fermentation in done in barrel, with average temperature just 22ºC low! It is cold macerated for 5 days, with average maceration 23 days, 30% whole bunch, using French oak barrels 2nd and 3rd use. Same as the earlier we write, at least four different harvest times (1.5 month between the first and the last one) seem meticulous. The result is a powerful wine giving high-class aromas of kirsch, balsamic-soaked blackberry and licorice. Intense and suppressed for now, it oozes toasty black-fruit flavors welcome coffee and chocolate accents on the finish. A charming and subtle Cabernet Franc with power and elegance. Start drinking well when you receive the wine starting beginning of 2017.
JAMES SUCKLING | 97
Superb focus and intensity with blueberry, blackberry, wet earth and dried spice. Some bark. Full body, very fine tannins and beauty. Vivid and bright. Drink in 2018 but outstanding quality now. A blend of 85% cab franc with 15% Malbec.
Also Cabernet Franc based, El Enemigo Gran Enemigo Gualtallary 2012 returns us to 15% Malbec as conditioning grape. Vine density is high at 10.000 plants per hectare). Soil is excellent. Cabernet Franc is on Calcareous, rocky soil. Malbec: Calcareous, Deep- Calcareous. Rocky soil. Aging is done 7 months in foudre(large cask). Alcohol is 13.9% vol. This is the most structured wine in terms of acidity and length. Vinification method is the same as the previous 2 wines. The result is an incredible wine with power and elegance, probably good enough for listening Mozart and reading Cronopios. This wine is lots of frutis; you almost don't feel the oak. MICHAEL SCHACHNER of Wine Enthusiast writes. ' Deep boysenberry and plum aromas are fresh and intense. Intensity carries onto the palate, which is muscular but finely balanced. Racy raspberry, plum and brown sugar flavors are minerally at their core and snappy, bright and long on the finish.Drink after 2019.' A brave and good attempt.
JAMES SUCKLING | 98
Incredible depth of aromas of black mushroom, wet earth and dark fruits. Full body, super silky tannins and a refined finish. It lasts for minutes on the palate. A thought-provoking wine that makes you think. Glorious. Drink now or hold for ages.