The White Wine of Argentina Torrontes

by Chris Mauch
     Recent DNA research has shown that Torrontés is related to the Malvasia group of grapes which originated in the Eastern Mediterranean and found their way to Atlantic islands such as Madeira. It is not known how it arrived in Argentina, but it seems to have been there a long time, suggesting that it was brought by Spanish colonists, quite possibly missionaries
     While not well known in the United States, the Torrontes grape is already a star in its native Argentina. The grape produces the characteristic white wine of Argentina. Cultivated in the Argentine provinces of Catamarca, La Rioja, Mendoza, Salta, San Juan and Rio Negro, the wine made from this white grape is considered the best of its kind in the entire world. Torrontes is the most distinctive of all Argentine wines, including both white and red, because Argentina is the only country to produce it. It is considered a wholly Argentine variety.
     The wines made from the Torrontes grape have been, for many years, the visiting-card of the Argentine Wine Producers and have received many international awards. As it has progressed in the international market, it has become the emblematic white wine of Argentina. Torrontés can be light and fragrant, with aromatics that are similar in style and weight to Muscat and Gewürztraminer.
     Two major regions that you should get to know are Mendoza and Cafayete. The Cafayete region is farther north from Mendoza. The most productive areas are around Cafayate, where the average altitude is about 5,500 feet above sea level. The high altitude means sunny days and cool nights, which is good for fruity wines with plenty of acidity. This region’s micro-climate is ideal for cultivating the Torrontes grape.
Enticing aromas that are strikingly similar to Viognier, with hints of peach, flowers, and orange citrus fruit.
     On the palate, it has a beautiful structure and acidity along with enticing fruit flavors that keep you coming back for another sip and plenty of body for a wine that shows such delicate aromas and flavors. Torrontes produces a unique white wine with highly perfumed, floral aromatics. One would expect this wine to also taste sweet, but it ends up being medium-bodied and dry.
     Yellow apples, flowers, spices, and tropical fruits are all common flavor descriptions of Torrontés.This wine has to be tasted to be believed. Best enjoyed in its youth either by itself, or as a wonderful partner with smoked meats, mild to medium-strong cheeses, and seafood.
     A Great partner for spicy food and Thai as well. Keep on hand for the “I only drink red” wine drinkers in your life. It is very likely they have never heard of the Torrontes grape. They definitely won’t expect such a fruity wine that is not overly sweet.

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Sue Baxter