With the Vinexpo trade show in New York this week, now is the time for wineries to unveil new, high-profile projects. Nicolás Catena, owner of Argentina's Catena Wines, and Eric de Rothschild of the French firm Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), have officially released the first wine from their joint project, called Caro.
The wine is a blend of two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon and one-third Malbec, from Argentina's Mendoza region. (The name is likewise a blend, joining the first letters of the two men's surnames.) The grapes are sourced from three of Catena's vineyards -- in the Agrelo, Lulunta and Vistalba subregions -- and the vines range from 18 to 50 years old.
After hearing about Argentina's burgeoning quality, and about Catena in particular, Rothschild met Catena in 1999 at Wine Spectator's annual Wine Experience. The two soon worked out the framework for the venture.
"It goes back to the very old Bordeaux tradition of blending Cabernet with Malbec," said Rothschild of his impetus for the project. Malbec, one of the five grape varieties allowed in Bordeaux wines, is no longer in common use there, but it is now widely planted and successful in Argentina. "It's amusing that, with new technology, this is working again," he added.
"I know if there is anyone that knows about blending, it's the people from Bordeaux," Catena said, deferentially. "My conclusion is that the art of blending is going to play a crucial role in the region."
Catena owns or leases many of the top vineyards in Mendoza, and his years of researching the region's microclimates and clonal selections have helped push the quality of Argentinean wine up dramatically in recent years.
Heading up the winemaking team for Caro is Estela Perinetti, who currently makes the Don Miguel Gascón wines for the Catena-owned Bodegas Escorihuela. Working with her is winemaker Christian Le Sommer, formerly of Château Latour and currently a consultant with DBR Lafite, whose global empire includes Bordeaux's Château Lafite Rothschild, the Sauternes estate Château Rieussec, Chile's Los Vascos and California's Chalone Wine Group.
The debut release of Caro is from the 2000 vintage, of which 3,740 cases were made. The U.S. market will get 2,200 cases for release in November at a retail price of $40 per bottle. A formal review from a Wine Spectator blind tasting will soon follow.
In a nonblind tasting with Catena and Rothschild, the wine showed lovely red berry fruit, with elegant shadings of vanilla, cedar and spice, very much in the Lafite house style.
However, the wine is a marked departure in style for Catena, whose Malbecs often undergo extended macerations of 20 to 40 days, producing dramatically rich, dark flavors. In contrast, Caro is given a much shorter maceration, resulting in a more elegant style. Sixty percent of the wine is aged in new French barriques.
Check our recent ratings of Catena wines.
Read more about this project:
Learn more about Catena and Domaines Barons de Rothschild: