I’m doing research for a story on Torrontes, the native white grape of Argentina. Argentina has a number of fascinating facts relative to its wine culture (most of which you will need to read my article to learn [tease]), such as growing grapes at the highest elevations in the world (as high as 9,800′ in Colome), and at the lowest latitude, 43°.
I had to taste a few wines to get a feel for the varietal. So I had a tasting party last night with some friends, most of whom don’t know much about wine beyond whether or not they like what’s in their glass – and in the end that is all that really matters about the wine anyway. Below is a picture of my hot mess of a tasting party. Eight people, seven wines, lots of food, and a good time had by all. All of the wines were in the value sweetspot of between $9 – $15.
The Torrontes grape is Argentina’s native white grape. It is a natural combination of the Muscat de Alejandro, and the Mission grape, known locally as the Criolla Chica, brought over from Spain by 16th century conquistadores and missionaries. There is almost no other wine growing region in the world cultivating this grape, though some can be found in Spain and New Zealand.
The flavor profile of Torrontes is similar to a Gewurztraminer or Viognier. It is one of the aromatic grapes, with heady, intense floral aromas of orange blossoms, jasmine, and lavender, and tropical fruits from orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit, to honeydew, apricot, lychee, and apple. There is often a spice like white pepper, or a minerality picked up from the sandy, stony soils.
Grown predominantly in two of Argentina’s wine regions, the North, and the Cuyo or Mendoza region in the central western part of the country. In the north the Cafayate Valley in the Salta province is a key place to find Torrontes. The wines here are often leaner, crisper, with higher acidity. They grow at the highest altitudes in the world, over 5,600′ on steep slopes where furrows are dug to naturally irrigate the vineyards from snow melt coming down from the Andes Mountains. The average rainfall in Argentina is only 8″ per year and with extremely permeable soil it is crucial to capture this snow melt water. In the Mendoza or Cuyo region the elevation is much lower, 1,000 – 2,000′ and the soil is more fertile. The wines from this region tend to be fuller, rounder, with more intense flavors.
Luigi Bosca Finca La Linda 2010 Torrontes – from Cafayate in the Salta province this wine is grown at some of the highest elevations in the world (5,600’ asl). 100% Torrontes, light yellow coloring tinged with green reflections this wine exhibits great balance between the floral and fruity aromas, and matches the flavors on the palate of white flowers, citrus and peach. An elegant expression of the Torrontes grape. Cold fermented with selected yeasts. Once stabilized it is only lightly filtered before bottling. La Linda comes in at 13.9% abv and intended to be consumed within two years of bottling.
Doña Paula Estate 2010 Torrontes – Grown in Cafayate in the Salta province the extraordinary altitude and thermal exchange work together to concentrate the aromas of this native Argentinian wine. Slightly golden in color, more floral than fruity on the nose, citrus on the palate, this wine is grown in the old world style of the trellised parrón, with furrow irrigation fed by melt water from the Andes Mountains. The grapes are harvested at three different times throughout the growing season, fermented in concrete vats at low temperatures and blended together before bottling. Harmonious components.
Bodegas Catena Zapata Alamos 2010 Torrontes – This 100% Torrontes, from vineyards in Cafayate in the Salta province this wine has intense floral aromas, similar to a Gewurztraminer. Fuller mouthfeel, with tropical fruits on the palate along with peach and some minerality, and spice. Lightly pressed and racked right from the press before cold fermentation. Some barrel aging in French and American oak. 13.5% abv. Consistently high scores from the wine press and value priced. A dependable winner. Will not disappoint.
Michel Torino Don David 2010 Torrontes – The 100% Torrontes is from the Cafayate Valley in the Salta province. It has that characteristic orange muscat aroma similar to a Gewurztraminer or Viognier, with a white pepper spice on the nose and palate. Orange, lime, and grapefruit flavors. 13.9% abv. Grown using sustainable farming practices and hand harvested, this wine is crisp, refreshing, and elegant.
Cielo 2007 Estate Grown Torrontes – From the Famatina Valley in La Rioja in the Mendoza province this full-bodied wine has a satiny mouthfeel, showing softer acidity from aging but not flabby. Great floral nose balanced by the tropical fruity palate. Grown at the lower altitude of approximately 1,900’ in more fertile, well-irrigated soil than the northern regions Cielo has 14% abv.
Valentin Bianchi Sensual 2009 Torrontes – From Rama Caida, San Rafael in Mendoza this 100% Torrontes grows at 2,200’ and is twice sorted after hand picking. Cold fermented in stainless steel. A zippy, tropical fruit and apple palate to match the orange blossom and spice aromas. Refreshing acidity. Well balanced. 12.5% abv.
Crios de Susana Balbo 2010 Torrontes – 100% Torrontes from the Salta province, with some Mendoza Torrontes in the blend. Aromas of peach and white flowers, on the palate, citrus and honeydew. Mouth-watering, refreshing acidity. Great food wine, shellfish, spicy dishes, soft cheeses. Tremendous quality:price ratio. High points by anyone’s rating system.