Wine Star: Laura Catena

Wine Spectator - October 22, 2018
laura catena Laura Catena is cementing Malbec's place on the world stage.

Photo by Shannon Sturgis

The Argentinian vintner is a passionate ambassador for her native land.

Laura Catena is an emergency-room physician, a published author and the fourth-generation leader at her family's Bodega Catena Zapata in Mendoza, Argentina. But that last part wasn't always the plan. "I thought that I was going to spend my life working as a doctor and drinking the family's wines, not making them," she said Friday at the Wine Experience.

But Catena obviously did join the family business. Her decision, it turns out, came after her first New York Wine Experience back in 1995.

"The New York Wine Experience changed my life," Catena said. She recalled her frustration when attendees passed over her family's booth for more popular producers from California, France and Italy. "I called my father the next day and I said 'Papa, I am coming to work with you.'"

Today, Catena Zapata is world-renowned for revolutionizing the quality and reputation of Argentine Malbec, and Catena, now the winery's managing director, is a fierce advocate for the estate, the region and the grape. Inspired by the history of Malbec, from its birth in France to its disastrous near-extinction due to phylloxera to its renaissance in Argentina, Catena's intent on establishing Argentine Malbec as an equal to the most famous of French wines.

"There is a question that I keep getting asked that I don't like … 'What comes after Malbec in Argentina?'" she said. "You wouldn't ask Aubert de Villaine from Romanée-Conti ‘What comes after Pinot Noir in Burgundy?’ would you?"

As Catena shared her family's still bright and vibrant 2004 Malbec Mendoza Argentino (95 points, $120 on release) with hundreds of eager wine lovers, it was clear that Malbec’s days of being passed over at wine tastings are long gone.