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Two Cultures + Two Estates = Elegant Wines

It began in 1999 with the birth of a partnership between Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) and the Catena family of Mendoza. Their mission was to produce a wine that would combine French and Argentine cultures. Baron Eric de Rothschild described it as, “An association between two cultures, two families and two noble grapes.” Bodegas Caro was born and the two signature grapes of each producer, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon became the focus of their endeavors.

Together, these families have combined their knowledge and expertise to produce elegant wines.  The Catena family, who has produced wine for four generations, contributed their knowledge of the high altitude terroirs of the Mendoza region and to find the best vineyards for Malbec. Domaines Barons de Rothschild contributed their knowledge and centuries-old skills in growing, vinifying and aging Cabernet Sauvignon. DBR also imparted the art of blending different grape varieties to produce one great wine. The first vintage in 2000, called CARO, was a success and led to the creation of Amancaya in 2003, a Malbec dominated cuvée. Aruma Malbec (100%) was introduced with the 2010 vintage.

The vineyards are located in two zones in Mendoza. The first zone is in Luján de Cuyo and Maipú. This zone is noted to be among the best in Argentina for making wines. The altitude range is 2625 ft. to 2953 ft. with average temperatures of 46 to 73 degrees.  The second zone is in the Uco Valley in Tunuyán, Tupungato and San Carlos. The altitude range is 3280 ft. to 5250 ft. with average temperatures of 44 degrees to 71 degrees. The high elevations in these zones are beneficial to the grapes due to the high daytime temperatures and cooler nights. This diurnal temperature variation contributes to slowing the ripening process, extending the growing season and allowing the grapes time to produce balanced sugar and acidity.

All of the grapes are handpicked and hand-sorted before de-stemming and vinification to make sure that only the best grapes are used. Each vintage is aged in oak barrels, 18 months for CARO and 12 months for Amancaya. Most of the barrels are made at the DBR’s cooperage in Bordeaux. Aruma Malbec is aged in tanks to preserve the fruit-driven style and to allow the varietal characteristics of the grape to come through.

Overseeing all of this is Philippe Rolet, Estate Manager and winemaker who joined Bodegas Caro in January 2019. Philippe was born in Jura, France into a family-owned winery, Domaine Rolet. He began his career at Domaine William Fèvre and went on to work with many prestigious wineries in Argentina, Chile and France before becoming estate manager for Bodegas Caro.

Philippe Rolet Photo courtesy of Bodegas Caro

I asked Philippe what his biggest challenge was in the vineyards and presumed he might speak about springtime frost and summertime hail that are common threats in high altitude vineyards. I was not expecting the following answer!

"The biggest challenge we face in the vineyard is living together with ants. The vineyards in Mendoza are located in a semi-desert climate. In this environment, apart from vineyards, leaves are rare. Our vineyards are in transition for organic management. We do not use pesticides or insecticides. Therefore, ants can be very damaging, destroying young shoots and leaves in springtime, thus, reducing crops and also killing vines. Ants are part of our biodiversity. Our actual challenge is offering them something more appetizing than our vine leaves. Native flowers appear as a good alternative. We actually investigated the right native species to plant within our vineyards."

After doing a little reading, I learned that ants are indeed an issue in many vineyards of Argentina. I am quite happy that Philippe and his team were able to solve their ant problem and my palate is especially pleased.

I recently had the opportunity to taste two of the estate wines and I was duly impressed by their quality and expression.

Photo credit: Penny Weiss

Bodegas Caro Amancaya Reserve Red Blend 2017
This is a blend of 72% Malbec and 28% Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes were handpicked from vines over 30 years old. Aging took place for 12 months with 50% in French oak barrels and 50% in concrete vats. This ruby-red wine is filled with aromas of cherry, raspberry and baking spice. The palate is layered with lush fruit of ripe cherries and plum followed by spice and slight oak integration. A hint of cocoa and anise linger on the finish with soft tannins. This is a beautiful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec that clearly shows off the marriage of Argentinian and Bordeaux styles. This wine is named after Amancaya, a mountain flower that grows in the Andes.
Alcohol: 14%
SRP $19.99

Bodegas Caro Aruma Malbec 2017
This wine is 100% Malbec. As previously noted, the grapes are handpicked and the wine is aged in tanks. The color is dark ruby with intense aromas of floral, red fruit and a hint of herbs. An array of juicy and fruit-driven flavors greet the palate with cherry, blackberry and spice. This is a graceful wine with a harmonious balance between tannins, acidity and alcohol. “Aruma” means “night” in the Quechua language. The name was chosen for “the intense darkness of the nights in the Andes and the pure mountain air that give the wines the rich, authentic character of their terroir.”
Alcohol: 13.5%
SRP:  $19.99

Both wines will pair well with appetizers, grilled meat, stews, hearty pasta and fatty fish such as grilled tuna.

These wines are a treat to drink and priced well. I’m looking forward to tasting CARO in the next few weeks and sharing my thoughts with you.

Until then…




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