Winemaker Alejandro Vigil has two tattoos on his right forearm; one spells the name of his young son, Juan Cruz, and the other spells ‘malbec’. If nothing else the tattoos illustrate his commitment and that is a word that is wholly applicable to Alejandro, who dropped out of school at 14 to work at his local wine co-operative, played professional rugby, studied at night to come top of the class in agricultural engineering and by the age of 27 headed the soils division at the Argentine National Research Institute. From there he was recruited to lead the research team at Nicolas Catena, and has been chief winemaker there for more than a decade.
His personal project is El Enemigo, which he runs in partnership with Adrianna Catena, a gifted historian and daughter of Argentina’s most famous of winemakers, Nicolas Catena. Adrianna and Alejandro have a shared love of family, of history and of respect for tradition and decided to make wine together in 2009 after attending the ceremony in London at which Nicolas Catena was presented with the Decanter Man of the Year award.
Despite his malbec tattoo Alejandro makes just one malbec-dominated wine and four others in which cabernet franc prevails in the blend, as well as a chardonnay. The fruit is from Gualtallary in the Mendoza region, from high vineyards over 4,000 feet above sea level in the first stirrings of the Andes. At these elevations the conditions are propitious for making textured wines with rich but pure fruit and compelling aromatic qualities.
The sole malbec-dominated wine is tempered by some cabernet franc and petit verdot, and is aged in large foudres for 16 months. This allows oxygen to affect the wine as it matures but does not impose oaky flavours. The winemaking aims at something more vibrant and fresh than many a malbec, with one eye on a more European style, made to accompany food and to please a social gathering of thirsty drinkers, in this case Alejandro’s neighbours in Chachingo.