There is a world of difference between this sort of malbec and the decent $10-to-$15 bottles that brought Argentina to global attention. Well, perhaps not a world but a mountain. Great malbec tends to be grown at high elevation, where cool nights impart acidity, phenolic ripeness and structure to the grapes, as well as on well-drained slopes rather than valley floors. This one comes from vineyards ranging from about 1,000 metres to 1,500 metres high. Catena was a high-altitude pioneer and treats this superpremium bottling with care, using wild yeasts and small fermentation bins for each vineyard lot, among other measures.
And the wine is bottled without filtration or the use of clarifying agents, so no flavour or texture has been stripped out. The 2010 Alta is rich and jammy, but, in contrast to many of those cheap-and-cheerful malbecs, not grapey. Smooth and structured, it shows concentrated black fruits and a kick of spice, with very fine, sticky-but-friendly tannins. Perfect for grilled red meats. $49.95 in B.C., $52.29 in N.B., $54.79 in N.S., $56.39 in Nfld.