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Pinot Noir Reaches New Heights with Laura Catena's Domaine Nico

Posted on November 12, 2019

Mendoza, Argentina—Dr. Laura Catena is pleased to announce Domaine Nico and its range of single-parcel Pinot Noir wines from the high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina. Domaine Nico was inspired by Catena’s travels to France as a teenager where she was first exposed to the country’s obsession with regionality. The wines of Domaine Nico are the direct result of years of research on Pinot Noir, conducted with the same intense focus on terroir and site specificity that Catena dedicated to her family winery’s groundbreaking studies of Malbec.

“Our research into Malbec led us to discover specific vineyard sites that might be ideal for growing Pinot Noir,” says Catena. “We set off on our Domaine Nico adventure to take advantage of the high elevation and the alluvial and calcareous soils of the Uco Valley. These vineyards spoke en français to me at the time, and now that we’re several vintages into the program, that voice undeniably comes through loud and clear when I taste these wines.” Catena continues, “Aubert de Villaine, from Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, once famously said that the variety Pinot Noir was second in relevance to terroir for defining the essence of Burgundian wine. The Domaine Nico project proved this to be absolutely true.”

The Domaine Nico project began in 2008 with a vision to produce authentically Argentine Pinot Noir. Winemaker Roy Urvieta and viticulturist Belén Iacono began conducting an in-depth study of exceptional parcels at elevations of 1,100-1,500 meters above sea level. Under the direction of Catena and Alejandro Vigil, Winemaking Director for Catena Zapata, the team meticulously detailed the qualities and styles of each vineyard plot and by 2012, their research into the extremely low nighttime temperatures and calcareous (limestone) soils of the region enabled them to discern which vineyards were capable of producing classic-style Pinot Noir. The weather conditions in 2016 were cool and rainy, but these resulted in the creation of unique and distinctive wines, each reflecting the terroir of their respective vineyard origins. These parcel-specific bottlings in this inaugural release show consistently intense floral aromatics, delicate minerality, and above all, classic elegance.

“With Domaine Nico, we want to show the world that Mendoza can produce authentic Pinot Noir with very different flavors that reflect the biodiversity of its soil and climate,” says Urvieta, a Ph.D candidate at the University of Buenos Aires and an expert in sensory analysis of regional Malbec. “We are in the early stages of exploring the potential of Pinot Noir in Argentina, and it’s encouraging to see that the distinctive qualities of each of these vineyard sites is being borne out in the finished wines.”

“These Pinot Noirs exhibit a combination of elegance and drive that can be appreciated as a feminine tour de force,” says Catena. “I thought it fitting to name the range after my daughter’s nickname, Nico, also paying homage to my great-grandfather, Nicola Catena.”

The naming of the individual wines was influenced by French literature, a passion that started for Catena in high school while studying writers Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre at the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires. “Several years ago, while in a particularly intense phase of work on Domaine Nico, I woke up in the middle of the night with all the parcel names in my head,” says Catena. “I am not sure why, but the names came out in French, and in the end, this made emotional and artistic sense to me.”

Grand Mère and Grand Père, Villa Bastías, Tupungato, Uco Valley
The Grand Mère and Grand Père bottlings both come from an old vineyard in Villa Bastías, Tupungato that has stood the test of time. Throughout the years, those parcels bred many wines and enriched the viticultural team with plenty of knowledge, akin to the love and wisdom that grandparents bestow on children and that Catena admires and respects so much. With these two wines, Domaine Nico honors the unique role of these beloved family figures.

Winemaking for both Grand Mère and Grand Père is traditional and gentle in order to create elegant and classically-styled Pinot Noir. Yields are extremely low in both sites due to their age, resulting in wines with more complexity and focus. The Grand Mère parcel receives more sun, resulting in generous and silky tannins with aromas of red cherry and strawberry fruit. As it opens up, black fruit comes through with a spicy character of black pepper and cinnamon. Grand Père comes from a more shaded parcel, with the wine thus revealing delicate red fruits, fine tannins, balanced acidity and mineral qualities.

Histoire d’A and La Savante, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley
From a vineyard in Gualtallary, La Savante and Histoire d’A are made using whole clusters during fermentation that serve to highlight the texture and graininess of the wines. La Savante is named in honor of women scholars who are deeply focused, much like this wine, which fills the mouth with minerality and spicy red fruits. Histoire d’A is a play on the famous novel Histoire d’O by Pauline Réage, because the parcel makes a very “sexy” wine. Generous red fruit, thyme, cinnamon, and clove erupt from the site’s lower sun exposure, and there is a smooth sweetness to the tannins followed by a silky finish.

Le Paradis, Gualtallary Alto, Tupungato, Uco Valley
This cool climate vineyard is lined by trees and fruit orchards with the most majestic views of the Andes. A little house, affectionately named Château Laura, rests in the middle of the field with two tiny bedrooms and a kitchen where Catena dreams of spending one whole month reading books – her version of paradise. Exhibiting a glorious intensity not unlike the feeling of finally arriving to one’s wonderland, this wine is full of spicy mineral elements, fine tannins, subtly integrated oak and herbal notes that accompany the berry aromas that continue to build in the glass.

The Domaine Nico wines — Grand Mère 2017, Grand Père 2017, Histoire d’A 2017, La Savante 2017, and Le Paradis 2016 — are now available through MundoVino, a division of Winebow Imports.

About Domaine Nico
Domaine Nico is a collection of extreme high-altitude Pinot Noir wines. Located in the Uco Valley, the estate includes five single-parcel vineyards – Grand Père and Grand Mère in Villa Bastías, Histoire d’A and La Savante in Gualtallary, and Le Paradis in Gualtallary Alto – all within the Tupungato region of the Mendoza province in Argentina. Laura Catena named the wines after her youngest daughter Nicola, who is nicknamed Nico.


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