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A drink with… Dr Laura Catena

The Argentine winemaker and MD of Bodega Catena Zapata shares her early wine memories and her hopes for the future...

Laura Catena is a fourth-generation Argentine vintner, with a medical degree from Stanford University. MD of Bodega Catena Zapata and Luca Wines in Mendoza, she is also an author of wine books and an emergency medicine physician in San Francisco.

‘My earliest wine memory is Malbec with soda at my grandfather’s house, aged around five. In Argentina, the first time a child is allowed at the adult table, they would be given soda water with a splash of Malbec. I was so proud,’ she says.

‘Winemaking is art and science – and medicine is too. Doctors put data together with limited information. They have to be able to diagnose anything. It’s the same thing in the vineyards. You’ve got the weather; you’re tasting grapes; when should you harvest? I do think there’s a lot of connection.

‘There’s no such thing as Old World and New World. Geology is millions of years old. The Europeans don’t own world geology.

‘Catena’s first Malbec, the 1994, wasn’t an instant success. In the 1990s no one knew Malbec. The Wall Street Journal was the first major newspaper to write about it, and chose our 1997 Malbec as its top wine. That was a big deal.

‘Until about 10 years ago, most vineyards in Argentina were planted by massal selection and we shared with all our neighbours; nobody’s done that in France or the US or anywhere else for 100 years. Today, you test anything in Argentina and there’s lots of viruses. A lot of this has to do with the same reason you get Covid: you have people encroaching on natural habitats.

‘I think the world wants diversity to happen. We want diversity of people, different ethnicities, religions, and countries. Biodiversity is better for the earth than monoculture. It’s diversity that makes wine so exciting. My goal is for every collector to have an Argentina section in their cellar.’


Catena Zapata: Six to try

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