Adrianna Catena – daughter of Catena Zapata founder Dr. Nicolas Catena – is a historian by trade. Alejandro Vigil knew Adrianna through his work for her family as senior winemaker at Argentina’s finest estate since 2002.
In 2009, they decided to create a new winery for themselves, one they describe as representing “their deep respect for history and tradition, and their complete irreverence towards the status quo.” Their El Enemigo Chardonnay certainly embodies both.
The Traditional … Much of the growing and making of this wine is pretty traditional stuff for Chardonnay in Mendoza and elsewhere.
Fruit grown at high altitudes, allowed to ripen to full flavor while retaining fine acidity, picked by hand, pressed gently, and fermented in barrels and then racked into 500 liter oak casks (about 30% new) to age.
And the “Irreverent” … Then things get a bit “irreverent” and very not “status quo.” Alejandro adds about 20% of last year’s wine to each barrel before the new vintage is poured in.
And, instead of fill each barrel full, he leaves a little headroom on most. On that exposed surface the special yeast called “flor” begins to grow, eventually forming a pillowy fluff that covers the wine’s surface and protects it from oxidizing air.
It’s a technique Chardonnay makers in the French region of Jura have been using for years and when done well – and it’s done very well here! – it adds a light nuttiness and sense of salinity to Chardonnay’s ripe, fleshy, fruit. Here, that sense of almost saltiness – almost! – marries with fresh acids that are coming out more and more as the wine ages to create a pretty much perfect Summer Chardonnay.