food 01.4.05

Nicolas Catena Wines

People seem to like playing the acronym game with us. ("Hey, if you start a London edition, it'll be LUG. Paris User's Guide — PUG" etc.) For the moment, though, if we were to decamp for a new city, it would have to be BAUG, for Buenos Aires.

Among the many things to recommend that city is its appreciation of Argentina's Mendoza wine region, in which the Malbec grape is front and center. In Bordeaux, Malbec is relegated to supporting player (blending grape) when used at all any more. The high elevation of the Mendozan vineyards (900m or more), however, transforms the Malbec, showing it capable of doing a star turn, with fabulously bright, age-worthy, blackberry-bursting wines.

Argentinean wineries have increasingly gone the quality-over-quantity route, and nowhere is that more true than the wines of Bodega Catena Zapata. The Catena family has been producing wines in the region for over 100 years; with Nicolás Catena now at the helm, the winery has become synonymous with the promise of Argentina. If you want to remember one producer in the region, this is the one.

They export four lines: Nicolás Catena Zapata, Catena Alta, Catena, and Alamos. You can find the bargain-priced Alamos Malbec 2003 at Beacon Wines, 2120 Bway [74th] 212.877.0028, for $10.99 and the Catena 2002 Malbec there for $21.99. The 2001 Catena Alta is $39.99 at 67th Street Wines, 179 Col [68th] 212.724.6767. Morrell, 1 Rock Plaza 212.688.9370, has the Catena/Lafite Rothschild blend of Cab Sauvignon and Malbec, called Caro ($39.95).

In answer to your questions from yesterday's How to Help: Relief organizations say that, for now, they can't use volunteers — it's cash that's needed. As times goes on, there may be other ways to help and we'll pass that info along.

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