The striking label artwork leads Dr. Catena to create an original theatrical production exploring the global history of the Malbec grape and wins the 2018 Drinks Business Award for Best Design & Packaging.
New York, May 23, 2018—It all began with the label. “For most wineries, labels are just marketing tools designed to quickly catch the eye from a store shelf,” says Dr. Laura Catena, Managing Director of Argentina’s Catena Zapata. “But we had a different idea: Why not create a label that delves deeper and dramatizes the incredible cultural story behind Malbec’s migration from Europe to the Americas?”
The result was so compelling that on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, the Drinks Business Awards presented first place to the new label in its Best Design & Packaging in Wine category. The international panel of judges assembled by the U.K.-based wine and spirits publication recognized the label’s combination of innovation, depth, and visual impact in an annual ceremony held at the London Wine Fair.
It took more than a year to create that original artwork for the Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino 2015, a collectible release that makes its U.S. debut in May and tells the story of the grape through four allegorical female figures. The label artwork (attached below) also inspired Dr. Catena to create a four-act play with her brother-in-law, playwright Gustavo Ballejo. In the performance, Dr. Catena herself brings the four figures from the label to life. The theatrical piece debuted May 7 to an audience of trade and media at Balvanera, an Argentine restaurant in New York’s Lower East Side. A second performance occurred during the Nantucket Wine & Food Festival on May 18 with others scheduled throughout the year at events around the world. Then, four days later, the label won the Drinks Business Award.
Dr. Catena said of the honor: “The Malbec Argentino label tells the story of humanity, of women, of migration, and of natural disasters; this award is an acknowledgment of wine as a historical beverage.”
The idea for the label began with Dr. Catena’s sister, the historian Adrianna Catena. “The story of wine has almost always been told from a male perspective and we decided that it was time to honor the women who were intrinsic to Malbec’s travel from Europe to the Americas,” Dr. Catena said. “As we dove into our research, we were amazed by the stories—they were funny, dramatic, and sometimes tragic. I was inspired to write the play.”
For her performance, Dr. Catena fleshed out the roles of all four of the characters depicted on the label: Eleanor of Aquitaine, the 12th century monarch and Malbec’s first champion; the character “Madame Phylloxera,” representing the voracious female aphid that was the scourge of Bordeaux in the 1850s; the Italian immigrant Ana Mosceta, who is Catena’s own great-grandmother and represents those who brought the first Malbec cuttings to the Americas; and finally Adrianna Catena, who was at the side of her father, Nicolás Catena, as he established the grape variety as a treasure of the New World.
The original label drawing is by the Connecticut-based artist Rick Shaefer, who is known for large-scale works rendered in charcoal that combine the sublime with the macabre. Working with the Catena sisters and with Stranger & Stranger, a wine-focused packaging and design firm, Shaefer created finely detailed drawings that bring to mind Rembrandt’s late-Gothic etchings. The label design of the Malbec Argentino 2015—a premium, 100-percent Malbec release crafted from two of the family’s high altitude vineyards in Mendoza—is dense and layered, and is a radical departure from images used by Catena Zapata in the past. It is also the first time that the historical arc of a grape variety has been so graphically integrated into a wine label.
The grapes in the wine come from two hand-harvested, high altitude vineyards in the Valle del Uco: Angelica at 3,018 feet and Nicasia at 3,593 feet. Low yields and 24 months of aging in French barriques result in a full-bodied, intense and deeply hued wine that drinks well upon release but will also reward cellaring for another 10 to 20 years.
The SRP for the Catena Zapata Malbec Argentino 2015 is $140 and the wine is now available nationally through MundoVino, an import division of The Winebow Group.
About Catena Zapata:
Catena Zapata has been at the forefront of wine culture in Argentina since their vineyards were first planted in 1902. Over the past 40 years, the pioneering vision and tireless work ethic of Nicolás Catena Zapata has been rewarded by the fact that Argentine wine now stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the best wines in the world. Nicolás Catena Zapata is the only South American to have received both Decanter’s Man of the Year Award and Wine Spectator’s Distinguished Service Award. Under the current direction of winemaker and managing director Dr. Laura Catena, Bodega Catena Zapata continues to lead Argentina into the next century of winemaking, balancing a ceaseless study of Argentina’s high altitude climate and soils with the family’s century-old heritage. For more information about Catena Zapata, please visit www.catenawines.com.