Today, the wines of Don Miguel Gascón are crafted in the City of Mendoza at the same winery that was built in 1884 and by the Spanish visionary whose name bears it. The winery is also the home to1884, an award-winning restaurant operated by world renowned Chef Francis Mallman.
In 1993, another family became stewards of the winery, the Catena family. Dr. Nicolas Catena, known as a modern pioneer in the development of Argentine Malbec, gathered a group of investors and bought the winery in order to carry the legacy of Don Miguel into a new millennium.
During the 1940’s, the Gascón family bottled Argentina’s first 100 percent varietal Malbec. Now, Ernesto Catena, a fourth generation winemaker, has brought the wines of Bodegas Escorihuela Gascón to high status in Argentina, and to prominence with critics and connoisseurs throughout the world.
Bodega Gascón is a winery that makes several different varieties of wines from which I tasted through the following wines with the assistance of their very talented Sommelier: Extra Burt Sparkling, Viognier, Pinot Noir, and Malbec.
These are well made wines that were complex in structure and balance, and they have the expertise in making a world class Malbec for the past 100 years.
Nicolás Catena, sailed from Italy to Argentina in 1898 and planted his first Malbec vineyard in 1902. Malbec had been a blending grape in Bordeaux. But Nicola suspected it would find its hidden splendour in the Argentine Andes. Domingo, his son, inherited that dream and took the family winery to the next level, becoming one of the largest vineyard holders in Mendoza.
By the 1960s, however, Familia Catena was struggling. The Argentine economy was in shambles and inflation rates were soaring. One year, Domingo realized that it would cost him more to harvest than to leave the fruit on the vines. He asked his twenty-two year old son Nicolás, a recent PhD graduate in economics, what to do about such a dilemma. Nicolás advised him not to harvest. Domingo could not follow his son’s advice with a clear conscience and picked anyway. Nicolás still remembers the sadness he felt for his father that year.
But in the early 1980s, Nicolás left Argentina to become a visiting professor of economics at the University of California, on the world-renowned campus at Berkeley.
Nicolás Catena returned to Mendoza with a vision in mind. From one day to the other, he sold his table wine producing company, keeping only Bodegas Esmeralda, the fine wine branch of the family business. At that time Argentina was perceived as a bulk wine producer and Nicolás was told by many of his colleagues in Argentina that he was “completamente loco” (completely crazy).
But Nicolás Catena is not someone to be easily discouraged. During the 1980s, Nicolás set out to discover the best places to plant vineyards in Mendoza. When recently asked why he decided to plant Chardonnay and Malbec in Gualtallary, at almost 5,000 feet elevation, Nicolás answered, “I felt that the only way we would make a leap in quality would be by pushing the limits of vine cultivation, by taking risks”. His own vineyard manager had told him that Malbec would never ripen there, but it did, and beautifully. Nicolás found that Mendoza was exceptional for vine growing, with each high altitude valley providing a unique flavor and aroma profile of the same varietal. He found that the poor soils near the Andes, discarded by the original European immigrants due to their low fertility, were actually ideal for quality viticulture. And that the desert climate was an asset because it allowed him to control quality and hang time through strict irrigation control.
Then came the challenge of what to do with Malbec. Nicolás did not have his father’s confidence in Malbec. Domingo Catena fiercely believed that Argentine Malbec could make a wine as worthy as any first growth Bordeaux. Nicolás was not sure that Malbec would be able to age. In 1989, after his father Domingo died, Nicolás put all his sorrow into trying to see if his father’s intuition was right. It took 5 years of working on the 60 year old Angélica vineyard before Nicolás was satisfied enough to make a Catena Malbec in 1994. Then came the question of which clones to plant in the new vineyards. Since there was no existing Argentine Malbec clonal selection, Nicolás decided to bring clones from Cahors, France. The French Chardonnay clones had given him his best white. But results for French Malbec clones were disappointing. They grew large berries and bunches with rustic aromas and flavors.
Nicolás set out to develop his own selection of Argentine Malbec clones planting 145 clones in the La Pirámide vineyard. Of these, he selected the best five and began to plant them in different terroirs and altitudes.
By 1994, Nicolás and his team felt that they had identified their best vineyard lots for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. First with Cabernet Sauvignon in 1994, Nicolás bottled a small cuvée from the oldest and most uniform lots in the La Pirámide vineyard. Three hundred cases of Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon were made. In 1995, Nicolás bottled his first Chardonnay from cool climate Tupungato region, sourcing the fruit from Lot 4 of the Domingo vineyard for the Catena Alta Chardonnay. The next year, in 1996, two acres of lot 18 of the Angélica vineyard produced the best Malbec, and Nicolás made his first Catena Alta Malbec.
1997 was a phenomenal Cabernet Sauvignon vintage, and Nicolás Catena started plans to make another top cuvée, a wine that would fulfill those dreams that had started in the early 1980s. The wine, named Nicolás Catena Zapata (Zapata is Nicolás’ mother’s maiden name), was a blend of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Malbec. It was released in 2001 through a series of blind tastings held in the USA and Europe where it was compared blind to Château Latour, Haut Brion, Solaia, Caymus and Opus One. The Nicolás Catena Zapata 1997 came in either first or second in every tasting.
This winery makes serious wines for all levels of wine enthusiasts. The 2012 Catena Alta Chardonnay made in a classic Burgundy style floral, lemon and citrus on the palate, 12 to 16 months aged in new french oak. The acidity is perfectly balance throughout the finish.
2010 Catena Alta Malbec and Cabernet, wines that are rich in blackberry fruit, spices and luscious tannins structure on the finish.
2009 Nicolás Catena Zapata, is probably the best wine made in Argentina, 75% Cabernet and 25% Malbec. Black cherry, blackberry, spices and violets, 24 months in new French oak. A great wine for the serious wine drinkers.
The story begins in 1804 when Henri Cuvelier set out to share his great passion for fine wine with his friends of the grand bourgeoisie residing in the rich and dynamic towns of the North of France, (Lille, Boulogne Sur Mer, Arras, Valenciennes…) To this aim, he created H. Cuvelier And Fils, a wine Merchant company whose rapid success continued to develop throughout the 19th century.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Paul Cuvelier and his young brother Albert, anticipating the inevitable rise in « château-bottled wines » to the detriment of the « tailor-made » blends of the wine merchants, decided to purchase top quality estates in the Bordeaux area. They bought Château Le Crock in 1903, then Château Camensac in 1912 and finally the prestigious Château Léoville Poyferré in 1920. It is interesting to note that, in early 1914, Paul Cuvelier had already come to Argentina, to discover the wines of Mendoza. He found them « pleasant to drink » although not adapted to the French taste at that time. He recommended a watchful eye be kept on their development. In 1946, the family group asked Max Cuvelier to create a second Fine Wine Merchant’s based in Bordeaux. It was, as it transpired, essential to have an address in the Pavé des Chartrons if one wished to be part of the Bordeaux wine world. This company has since flourished both in France and around the world.
In 1998 Bertrand Cuvelier made the happy choice of personally accompanying Michel Rolland in his great Argentine project, which was to become the« Clos de Los Siete »group. Three years later, Jean-Guy Cuvelier decided to join his cousin Bertrand in the joint aim of building a Winery and producing fine wines worthy of the family tradition. The agreement between Bertrand and Jean-Guy Cuvelier was symbolically signed in the great office of their common ancestor, Henri Cuvelier, in Lille-Haubourdin, in the north of France. Since then, the Winery has been built and each year the vines of Cuvelier Los Andes have contributed 50% of their production to « Clos de Los Siete », the wine signed by Michel Rolland. The success of this wine is worldwide due to the exceptional value for money it offers.
The 2003 yield has also allowed the production of the first edition of «Cuvelier Los Andes-Coleccion». Then the 2004 harvest saw the arrival of our first edition of «Cuvelier Los Andes – Grand Vin ». With the 2005, Cuvelier Los Andes S.A., aside from its significant contribution to «Clos de Los Siete», can now present three wines, produced with the help and advice of Michel Rolland: Coleccion – Grand Vin – Grand Malbec. The quality of these wines, produced from young wines, is well beyond our original hopes. Will the Argentine cousins rival in the future with the fine wines of Bordeaux. It is for the consumers to decide. Time will tell.
A last word: We are proud to announce that the new generation has decided to join the crew, taking on the sales and marketing of the Cuvelier Los Andes S.A.
Cuvelier Los Andes is a great winery in Mendoza Argentina, led by there very talented winemaker Fedemco Bieeotto who was well trained in his craft in California and assisted by the world renown consultant Michel Rolland.
One of the reasons there wines are so fresh and vibrant is the introduction to a new wine making technique called Micro Vinification which means the winemaker put whole berry fruit in steel tank or barrel for fermentation. This technique reduces the amount of oxygen the grapes are exposed to during fermentation.
This winery make very good white wines, Viognier, and Chardonnay, but make no mistake they are a great red wine making winery. These wines aren’t your ordinary Argentina wines they are made fresh, lively and in the French style of wine making.
I tasted through several of the Cuvelier wines and the best of the best was the 2008 Cuvelier Los Andes Grand Vin “WOW” what a great wine that was powerful from the first time I smell the wine and when I put it on my palate it was explosive with fruits of blackberry, blueberry, spices, my final description as it coated my palate was “A Mouth Full of Joy”.
In 1952 – Renaud Poirier, Chief Winemaker at Moët & Chandon, went to Argentina to research the region’s potential for world-class wine production. The land at the foot of the Andes was truly amazing and that where they decided to settle.
In 1959 – Bodegas Chandon settled in Mendoza and in 1999 Terrazas De los Andes and Cheval Des Andes (joint-venture with Cheval Blanc) were created. 2001 was the release of the first vintage of Cheval Des Andes.
Terrazas De Los Andes, is an incredible winery, where I enjoyed my first Argentine the meal called an Asada (Barbecue). During the meal I was able to enjoy several outstanding wines in the company of their winemaker Gonzales Carrasco. As we tasted through his wonderful French style Chardonnay, and Argentinian native white wine Torrontes I was able to understand the style of wine that Terrazas De Los Andes are striving to make.
Terrazas De Los Andes, 2011 Malbec reserve was really fresh on the pallet that exhibited fruits of blackberry, mint, violet, very balance and well-made wine.
Terrazas De Los Andes, 2011, 100% Cabernet, blackberry, black cherry, on the pallet a Cabernet that was easy to drink even though it was a full body wine with well integrated tannins structure. This wine spends one year in French oak.
On my next visit I’m really looking forward to tasting through the Cheval De Los Andes wines.