Lavish dark-fruit aromas and sweet spices with mocha notes give way to fresh red and black-raspberry, and black cherry flavors.
Ernesto Catena could not have asked for a better teacher in the ways of the wine world than his own father, Nicolás Catena, the man who revolutionized Argentina’s wine industry just as Mondavi changed Napa Valley.
Nicolás Catena took his doctoral degree in economics from Berkeley and revolutionized the family business back home in Mendoza. The young economist pushed the family to export their wines, and since the early 1990s, the family’s $100/bottle, 98-point Catena Zapata reds have set the bar by which the rest of Mendoza is measured.
His well-traveled son Ernesto has continued the family legacy of high-altitude viticulture and exporting excellence. Ernesto’s Tikal vineyard in Vista Flores is 3,500 feet in elevation and farmed organically, with vines planted in gravelly soil that some compare to Bordeaux’s Graves.
The Catena mastery of Malbec and Syrah blends continues to set the pace for the entire Uco Valley, and that was especially clear in Mendoza’s outstanding 2013 vintage. Steady spring weather brought no rain, frost, or strong winds to interfere with fruit set. Veraison came early thanks to dry, sunny skies well into February. But just as everyone was mobilizing for an early harvest, March and April weather eased up the pace of ripening with temperate days and extra chilly nights — perfect for slowing down sugar development and letting phenolic maturation catch up. The result was a higher-than-average crop yield with deep, bright colors and elegant, fully mature fruit.
The 2013 Tikal Natural Proprietary Red is an intense and juicy blend of 60% Malbec and 40% broad-shouldered Syrah, all harvested by hand. Bright ruby in color. Lavish dark-fruit aromas and sweet spices tinged with mocha notes give way to fresh red and black-raspberry, and black cherry flavors on the palate. A lively thread of acidity provides graceful structure and finesse. Plush, expressive, and fresh, this is a wine to stockpile by the case.
This is the kind of wine that prompted James Suckling, the longtime Wine Spectator European bureau chief, to declare: “Argentina is on a roll” and “We see a huge upside to the quality of the wines of Argentina, thanks to their passion and dedication to fine winemaking.” Suckling called this 2013 Tikal “Natural” “very intense” with “full body, chewy and polished tannins,” and pinned on 94 points.
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