El Ene­migo

A blend of ter­roir, Caber­net Franc and the Uco Val­ley


A t the end of the jour­ney, we re­mem­ber only one bat­tle: the one we fought against our­selves, the orig­i­nal enemy, the one that de­fined us.’ This quote adorns ev­ery bot­tle made by El Ene­migo, Span­ish for ‘The Enemy’.

El Ene­migo is a joint pro­ject be­tween two great minds: Ale­jan­dro Vigil (who is also wine­mak­ing direc­tor at Catena Za­p­ata) and Adri­anna Catena (a his­to­rian and daugh­ter of Ni­colás Catena; the 2009 De­can­ter Man of the Year).

The deal was ef­fec­tively sealed dur­ing a Septem­ber stroll along the Thames in Lon­don fol­low­ing a din­ner to cel­e­brate Ni­colás’ De­can­ter hon­our. Adri­anna and Ale­jan­dro agreed to pur­sue their shared dream of pro­duc­ing fresh, high-alti­tude Caber­net Francs, which tapped into their mu­tual love for tra­di­tion and his­tory.

Ale­jan­dro has over­seen wine­mak­ing du­ties at Catena Za­p­ata since 2002, while Adri­anna gained her wine knowl­edge by en­joy­ing many bot­tles of top Bordeaux with her fa­ther. ‘I will never for­get the first time dad got a ship­ment from France and he opened a bot­tle of Che­val Blanc for me,’ she re­calls fondly.

Ale­jan­dro is an agron­o­mist who grad­u­ated top of his agri­cul­tural engi­neer­ing class be­fore as­sum­ing the role of Head of Soils at Ar­gentina’s Na­tional Re­search In­sti­tute. Then came the call from Ni­colás Catena, who wanted him to study and an­a­lyse the soils on Catena’s var­i­ous fam­ily farms.

In line with Ale­jan­dro’s and Adri­anna’s shared pas­sion for his­tory, a nod to the past can of­ten be found in their wines. Their Caber­net Francs hark back to Pomerol’s yes­ter­year, when the grape was al­ways the foun­da­tion of the blend and then com­ple­mented by other Bordeaux va­ri­eties. They also use large, old oak bar­rels which echo those used in Men­doza more than 100 years ago, when the staves were shipped in from Italy to be put to­gether and re-toasted in Men­doza. How­ever, El Ene­migo is not merely a pro­ject of def­er­ence to times gone by. With Caber­net Franc as its undis­puted fo­cus, it

has zoned in on spe­cific mi­cro-cli­mates which dis­play unique ter­roirs within sin­gle-site vine­yards at al­ti­tudes of up to 1,470m. None are more im­por­tant than in Men­doza’s Tupun­gato sub-re­gion of Gual­tal­lary, where the cal­care­ous soils are of oceanic ori­gin.

Here, high lev­els of sun­light and sun­shine hours as well as the broad range of day and night tem­per­a­tures al­low the grapes to ripen fully while also lock­ing in acid­ity lev­els. This re­sults in plush but bal­anced wines.

El Ene­migo can also boast a Bonar­dapro­duc­ing vine­yard in Ri­vadi­via in eastern Men­doza (planted at 650m alti­tude on sandy soils) that is more than 100 years old. This is in ad­di­tion to other care­fully tended vine­yards in Cha­cayes, Agrelo as well as El Cepillo in the San Car­los com­mune of Men­doza.

The fruit from these var­ied sites ends up the cel­lar that Ale­jan­dro built on his fam­ily prop­erty. It sits along­side his highly-re­garded restau­rant, Casa Vigil, which he runs with his wife, María Sance.

It is an in­ces­sant eye for de­tail which has pro­vided the build­ing blocks of El Ene­migo’s su­perla­tive wines and their ac­com­pa­ny­ing suc­cess around the world – as ev­i­denced by a brace of Gold medals at the 2018 De­can­ter World Wine Awards. The Gran Ene­migo Sin­gle Vine­yard Gual­tal­lary 2013 (pic­tured left) which con­tains 15% Mal­bec to en­hance its com­plex­ity, was de­scribed by the Ar­gentina judg­ing panel as ‘a su­per ex­am­ple’ that boasts ‘a lovely pol­ished nose of pretty notes of dark, ripe for­est fruits and herbs’ and a ‘supremely ex­pres­sive and con­cen­trated’ palate with ‘lots of poise and el­e­gance’.

Its sta­ble­mate, the Gran Ene­migo Sin­gle Vine­yard El Cepillo 2013 – which scored 96 points – has the same blend of grapes and the judg­ing panel (over­seen by multi-award-win­ning som­me­lier Paz Levin­son) de­scribed it be­ing ‘a great wine show­ing clever wine­mak­ing’ and ap­pre­ci­at­ing its ‘pretty palate’ packed full of com­plex fruit.

‘I al­ways look to ex­per­i­ment with my wines so don’t fol­low any recipe,’ says Ale­jan­dro. ‘Year af­ter year I try to ex­press the pu­rity of the fruit and the soil, and that’s another rea­son why in the cel­lar I use con­crete eggs, old foudres and bar­rels of var­i­ous sizes and ages.’

It is this core be­lief and de­sire to un­der­stand the land which drives the pair, and along­side Ale­jan­dro’s pas­sion for plants and soil means their wines rep­re­sent the very essence of ter­roir.

Left: Gran Ene­migo Sin­gle Vine­yard Gual­tal­lary 2013, which won Gold (95 points) at the 2018 DWWA

Above: one of the con­crete eggs Above: Adri­anna Catena Ale­jan­dro Vigil El Ene­migo’s cel­lar

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