Friday, August 19, 2011
Alma Negra: A Japanese Aesthetic in Argentina
Alma Negra (which translates as "black soul"), a wine project of Ernesto Catena, the son of the renowned Nicolás Catena Zapata. While I visited Argentina, I got to meet Ernesto and tour the lands and winery of Alma Negra, all of which were compelling for a variety of reasons. Ernesto straddles the line between science and art, having a computer science degree from Tufts University in Massachusetts (giving him a local connection) as well as a design degree from the Domus Academy in Milan. Yet it is his passion for beauty, his affinity for Japanese aesthetics, which seems to be his most significant motivation.
The 2009 Alma Negra Misterio ($40-$45) is a red blend and may contain Malbec, Petite Verdot, Merlot, Bonarda and Cabernet Sauvignon. Ernesto wants to keep the blend a mystery, to prevent any preconceptions based on knowing the grapes involved. It is primarily in the U.S. where people constantly want to know the grapes within a wine. Only 1000 cases were produced, and it has an alcohol content of 14%. The wine had a sweet spice aroma, with hints of blackfruits. On the palate, it was decadently smooth, with a complex melange of spice, vanilla, blueberry, ripe plum, and more. It was well structured with a long and pleasing finish. A hedonistic wine meant to savor, and which does not require food to enjoy, though it definitely would pair well with a fine steak or hearty dish. I was very impressed with this wine and highly recommend it.
The 2006 Alma Negra Gran Misterio ($80-$90) is a similar blend, though again as we do not know the actual make-up, it could even be different than the regular Misterio. Only 500 cases were produced, and it has an alcohol content of 14.1%. It is the darker, bolder and more tannic cousin to the regular Misterio. With a dark purple, almost black, color, it also has a milder aroma, still of spice and blackfruit. While the regular Misterio seduced you, this wine ravages your palate with its power. It is more dark spice, leather, and blackberry, with fierce tannins. It is a wine that desperately needs to be paired with a hearty hunk of beef, and I would like to see how a few more years of aging might mellow this wine a bit.