What happens when you combine two historically significant winemaking families from iconic regions in the Old and New World in a historic winery location set to the backdrop of the Andes Mountains? It may seem like a dream for many wine lovers, but this scenario does, in fact, exist in real life at Bodegas CARO located in Mendoza, Argentina.
A Powerful Combination
Usually, when we use the term “blending” in wine speak, we are talking about blending grapes or vintages, but what about a blending of passionate winemaking families and generations of traditions producing high-quality wines across hemispheres and continents? Bodegas CARO is the brainchild of two powerful families, the Catenas from Argentina and the Rothschilds (Lafite) from Bordeaux. Through Bodegas CARO, which was created in 1999, the families blend together their rich traditions in winemaking across France and Argentina, as well as two powerful grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon & Malbec, to create a winning combination. The perfect “blend” reflected in the name “CARO,” a combination of their family names.
A Rich History from France to Argentina
Each of these families has their own historical significance in their regions beginning in the 19th century. Nicolas Catena was a pioneer in Mendoza’s high-altitude vineyards, and his family continues the tradition of producing top-notch wines through Dr. Laura Catena, who is the fourth-generation vintner in that family. The Catena contribution to this collaboration is their vast knowledge of the terrain and terroir in the Mendoza region, as well as their expertise in perfecting the Argentine Malbec.
It’s hard to find a wine-o out there who is not aware of the Rothschild name when it comes to Bordeaux, and the Lafite brand of that name has carried a lot of weight through the centuries. Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) brings to the table its rich history in vinifying Cabernet and creating blends of distinction that have aging power across generations.
These families come together to make wine at a location with cellars built between 1884 and 1895 in the city center of Mendoza.
I recently had the opportunity to taste through three of the CARO wines along with French-born Estate Manager, Philippe Rolet. What surprised me the most was not the quality of the wines, I expected that, but truly the longevity of even the bottle of Aruma ($15), which once opened, remained fresh and never broke character over the course of five days.
The Malbec grapes used for Aruma comes from original Malbec vines that date back to pre-phylloxera times. Arguably, this is as original as Malbec gets. This wine is fermented 100% in stainless steel using no oak throughout the winemaking process.
Deep ruby in color, I found this wine to have that signature soft spice of Malbec along with ripe raspberries, cherries, blackberries, and plum. Dark chocolate and dusty fruit pop through, but overall the wine is smooth and elegant.
Again, it shouldn’t be surprising considering the combination of winemaking forces here, but I opened this bottle on a Thursday and tasted it the following Tuesday, and it was still perfection–if not, more “crushable” due to a softening of tannins and better melding of flavors. Very impressive show for an economical bottle.
The name Aruma means “night” in the language of the Quechua, the native people of Mendoza.
67% Malbec 33% Cabernet Sauvignon
This is the mid-level wine of CARO, and at $20 is still a steal. Always a majority Malbec, the blend of the two grapes does change by vintage. The 2017 numbers are listed above. Aging takes place in 50% new French Oak and 50% concrete vats for 12 months.
Another deep ruby wine with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, bramble, and vanilla spice. The Mendoza terroir shows itself in a more dry, dusty earth essence that peeks through. Full-bodied and full-throttle on alcohol, tannins, and acidity, but overall a boldly-balanced wine.
Amancaya is the native people’s name for a high-altitude flower found in Mendoza.
60-70% Cabernet, 25-40% Malbec
This big daddy wine is a limited production of the winery that is not made every year and needs some serious time to breathe. Aged in 50% new French Oak made by Tonnellerie des Domaines in Pauillac, the wine is wonderfully complex, but BIG.
Powerful aromas and flavors of tobacco, pepper, blackberry, raspberry, and vanilla are developing and will be for years to come. This is another one of the bottles that was opened on a Thursday and left with just a glass-full remaining until the following Monday when it was absolutely perfect to drink. Overall, I’d give this wine more time both in the bottle and in the glass. Enjoy, but slowly.