Torrontes – Argentina’s White Specialty Grape

At an Argentina wine tasting event earlier this week in Toronto, I was once again very impressed with the white wines made from the grape variety, Torrontes.  In recent years, Argentina has become best known for its friendly and affordable reds made from the Malbec grape, but the whites made from Torrontes are definitely worth trying out.  Unfortunately, they can be difficult to find.  After a quick search on the LCBO website, I found that there were only 6 Torrontes wines from Argentina listed.  The good news is that the most expensive one is $16.95.

Torrontes produces very aromatic wines with a grapey character similar to Muscat and aromas and flavours reminiscent of Gewurztraminer.  Wines made from these grapes can be floral and perfumey with a hint of spiciness.  They are generally dry.

There  are several varieties of Torrontes, the most planted and most aromatic being Torrontes Riojano (the last part of the name coming from the Argentine region of La Rioja and not the Spanish region of Rioja.)  Two other varieties of Torrontes are Torrontes Mendocino and Torrontes Sanjuanino, but these are of lesser importance.  It was thought that they were all distant relatives of the Spanish grape of the same name; however, DNA testing at UC Davis suggests that they are, in fact, offspring of Muscat of Alexandria.

The region producing the best examples of Torrontes is Cafayate in Salta province, in the northern part of the country.  The high altitude of the vineyards there produce Torrontes of naturally higher acidity and an assertive flavour profile.  There are also large plantings of the variety in La Rioja where it produces a voluptuous yet elegant wine.

Torrontes Tasting Notes:

Bodegas Etchart Torrontes 2006, Cafayate:  A very pronounced nose with honeysuckle and orange blossom, Nivea face cream, peach, ripe pineapple, and mango.  It is full-bodied with lots of perfume and tropical fruit on the long, dry finish.  A very balanced and interesting wine.

Dominio Del Plata Winery, Crios de Susana Balbo, Torrontes 2008:  Intense floral aromas dominate, supported by melon, grapes, green apple and mineral. It has a smooth texture with good acidity and a slightly spicy finish.  A very nice patio sipping wine.

Vinas de Altura, Gamela Reserva Torrontes, 2009:  A very perfumey nose with blossoms, and tropical fruit.  The concentrated flavours linger for a long time with spice and tropical fruit dominating the palate.

Trivento Tribu Torrontes 2009:  Very pronounced and intense aromas of roses, orange blossoms, mandarine, melon, and ripe pineapple, with a hint of spice.  Its rich, smooth texture coats the mouth with concentrated flavours of blossoms and fruit.  It’s quite a find at less than $10 a bottle.  This is perhaps my favourite Torrontes so far.  I don’t believe this is available at the LCBO; however, if you contact Bill Haddleton of Select Wines at haddleton@selectwines.ca he may be able to help you out.

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