“El Año Mendocino,” the Mendoza Year we call it. After a small cool vintage 2017, which we call “El Año Bordelés” (the Bordeaux Year) and a small, very cool and rainy year in 2016 “El Año Bourguignon” (the Burgundian year), we finally got a vintage that is classically Mendozan: dry, cool, sunny and with moderate yields in every region from the lowest to the highest altitudes.Prepared by Dr. Laura Catena, Chief Winemaker Alejandro Vigil and Viticulturist Luis Reginato
The summer of 2017 started out warm but then cooled off during the 2018 harvest months of February, March and April. This, in addition to the lower rainfall, gave rise to optimal balance in the fruit, with beautiful natural acidity, regional aromatic expression and smooth tannins.
A warm summer followed by the cooling effect of the Pacific over the Andes during the months of February, March and April gave rise to a slightly earlier (by two weeks) harvest in 2018.
There was a decrease of about 100 mm (4 inches), about 30% less rain in every region.
|Average Annual Rainfall (mm)||Rainfall 2018 (mm)||Difference (mm)|
|Angélica (Lunlunta, Maipú)||213 (8,4)||187 (7,4)||-26 (-1)|
|La Pirámide (Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo)||264 (10,14)||194 (7,6)||-70 (-2.8)|
|Domingo (Tupungato)||369 (14,5)||222 (8,7)||-147 (-5,8)|
|Adrianna (Gualtallary)||416 (16,4)||279 (9,7)||-137 (-5,4)|
|La Esmeralda (Tupungato)||341 (13,4)||247 (9,7)||-94 (-3,7)|
|Nicasia (Altamira)||305 (12)||173 (6.8)||-132 (-5.2)|
|Altamira Sur (Altamira)||407 (16)||241 (9.5)||-166 (-6.5)|
|Angélica Sur (Eugenio Bustos)||363 (14.3)||295 (11.6)||-68 (-2.7)|
A spring frost reduced yields by about 20%, but we saved most of the harvest by turning on anti-frost cans in Adrianna. A few all-nighters were pulled by Belén, Luis, Laureano and Miguel in the month of November. A nice dose of goat and sheep dung and worm compost kept the organically farmed Adrianna Vineyard happy throughout the growing season. The Catena Institute’s first year of microbial population study of the Fortuna and Mundus parcels showed a diverse and healthy population of microbes, different for each site. In three years we will hopefully have enough information to start understanding how microbial biodiversity and populations affect plant well-being and Malbec flavors.
The frosts that affected the Uco Valley, West towards Tupungato and Gualtallary (Adrianna) and South towards Paraje Altamira, came strongly upon the Nicasia Vineyard. Fortunately, our precious Nicasia was saved by the anti-frost fires that were lit throughout the night. This year the black fruits make us think of the Black Wine of the Middle Ages, so dark and intense in the nose and palate. The day-night temperature amplitude was particularly marked during the harvest months. We are very happy with Nicasia 2018 Malbec.
The old Cabernet Sauvignon block was classic, with a spice and bacon finish, giving us high hopes for the Nicolás Catena Zapata Cabernet component for 2018. This clay-soils vineyard, which had suffered the rains in 2016, was very happy in 2018, and the Elytrichia cover crop, a native variant of this grass from Mendoza, seems to be keeping the nutrients flowing to the vineyard; both old and new vine blocks are looking as healthy as ever. This is our one vineyard where we have found Phylloxera, but for five years now, we haven’t seen new Phylloxera spots, despite most of the vines being own-rooted.
The classic blue-violet fruit aromas of Angélica Sur are particularly marked and these wines promise to age well. We had a near-catastrophic frost in late March, but thanks to the Catena Institute’s sophisticated weather prediction methods and to this year’s earlier maturity, we were able to pick in the few days before the frost hit. It took a group of 150 harvesters to do the job! – everybody at Catena pitched in!
Our oldest vineyard, Angélica, planted in the 1930’s and named after Nicolás Catena Zapata’s mother, is one of our jewels and the home to the 135 cuttings Catena Population Malbec selection. A constant breeze coming from the adjacent river bed created pure harmony for this classic vintage. Yet again, we had multiple offers to sell the land for condominium development (the land is fairly close to Mendoza City) and we said no, never! Like we always do.