Apart from liberating Argentina from Spanish rule, General José de San Martín was known as a wine lover. According to one of his soldier's memoirs, San Martín held a blind tasting for a group of officers one night, where he dressed a Mendoza wine in a Spanish-labeled bottle and a Spanish wine in a Mendoza-labeled bottle. San Martín laughed as the officers praised the disguised Mendoza wine. (OK, so maybe he wasn't the kindest host.)
San Martín is one of the many historical figures whose wine stories get told in Malbec Mon Amour, a new book from Bodega Catena Zapata managing director Laura Catena and head winemaker Alejandro Vigil.
"We wrote this book because I could not stand the fact that people kept on asking me, 'What comes to Argentina after Malbec?'" Catena told Wine Spectator. "It's not a fashion; it's something delicious that has survived through so many different near extinctions."
Malbec Mon Amour is the result of 15 years of discussions about Malbec between Catena and Vigil, some of which are included in the book and copied from email and text exchanges. Catena says she was inspired to include this back-and-forth conversation by the 1991 novel Griffin and Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence.
"I feel like most wine books don't capture the fun of the world of wine," Catena said. "The key for us was, 'How do you transmit to people how much fun we have living in this world of wine?'"
Published by Catapulta Editores, the book follows Catena and Vigil through two journeys: the history of Malbec and different areas of Mendoza. From Malbec's role in Bordeaux wines in the 18th century to its journey to South America in 1853, the book includes an organized timeline for wine history and geology nerds. It also dives into the diverse soils of Mendoza, climate variations, irrigation systems influenced by the Incas and a 2009 DNA analysis that found Malbec's parent grapes, Magdeleine Noire and Prunelard.
Malbec Mon Amour's inclusion of Catena's family history also helps readers understand how the 120-year-old family business became the success it is today, focusing on key figures such as Nicolás Catena, who planted Catena Zapata's Adrianna Vineyard in 1992.
Vigil, who spends most of his time making wine and running a growing restaurant business, says he had a lot of fun putting pen to paper these past three years. "What I like about writing is that you have to think about how the other person will interpret it," Vigil said. "You are not writing for you but for people that are wanting to learn about Malbec, and that situation of putting yourself in others' shoes is the most difficult. But I loved it."
Malbec Mon Amour By Laura Catena and Alejandro Vigil (Catapulta Editores, $23, 192 pages)