Taking Their Place

Female Winemakers in Argentina, July 31, 2015
laura catena
It seems surprising, but as recently as a generation ago, women in Argentina werekept at arm’s length by the wine industry. But today, as Amanda Barnes writes, the country is nurturing some of the brightest female winemaking talent in the world. One of the greatest spokespersons and ambassadors for Argentine wine abroad, Laura Catena splits her time between San Francisco where she is a doctor, and Mendoza where she works in her family winery, Catena Zapata.

Author of Vino Argentino, 2014 president of the IWSC, international guest speaker –Catena’s achievements are endless. Although she might already be considered as reaching a par with her industrious father Dr. Nicolás Catena Zapata in terms of promoting Argentine wine, it is her work as a scientist that is most remarkable. When she started working at the winery in 1995, there were few women and convincing a largely male team that she, a young female graduate, knew better when it came to vineyard research was a challenge. “One time I asked our viticulturist to show me all the places where we were doing research. At every place he showed me a different trial, different altitudes, plant densities, pruning methods, varieties. Every time I asked him “Where are the controls?” but I soon realised that there weren't any. To me, one couldn’t call this research, and I said that to our viticulturalist.

He turned back to me with a big smile and said, “Laura, you should really dedicate yourself to marketing because that is where we need the most help.” Instead, she founded the Catena Institute of Wine with the first Malbec plant selection in 1995. “Today our institute does world-class research which is published in prominent international journals like The American Journal of Viticulture and Enology, The Journal of Food Chemistry and the Journal of Phytochemistry among others. And if any winemaker or viticulturalist asks me about marketing they know that the answer will be ‘the best marketing is to make the best wine’.” Catena’s defiance and attention to detail not only makes her a standout woman in the company, but a great migrator of international knowledge into Argentina and a considerable communicator of Argentina to the outside world.