By the 1960s, however, Familia Catena was struggling. The Argentine economy was in shambles and inflation rates were soaring. One year, Domingo realized that it would cost him more to harvest than to leave the fruit on the vines. He asked his twenty-two year old son Nicolás, a recent PhD graduate in economics, what to do about such a dilemma. Nicolás advised him not to harvest. Domingo could not follow his son’s advice with a clear conscience and picked anyway. Nicolás still remembers the sadness he felt for his father that year.
Nicolás Catena would never use the word about himself - a less boastful spirit, it’s hard to imagine - but he has been the quiet revolutionary in the Catena family history book. He has charted the family’s path to the new frontier of winemaking, drawing on lessons learned from the land and in the classroom, then applying his education to dare to challenge the conventional wisdom.
Taking the reigns of the family vineyards and wineries in the mid 1960s, he concentrated on expanding distribution throughout Argentina during years of turmoil in the 1970s. But in the early 1980s, Nicolás left Argentina to become a visiting professor of economics at the University of California, on the world-renowned campus at Berkeley. The political and economic situation in Argentina was difficult, with a military government that had just declared war on the United Kingdom and inflation rates of more than 1000 per cent per year.
Nicolás set out to develop his own selection of Argentine Malbec clones planting 145 clones in the La Pirámide vineyard. Of these, he selected the best five and began to plant them in different terroirs and altitudes.