Torrontés, and Why Not?
My upcoming February Tasting Room column will be on Argentina's red wines—a grab-bag of tasty, affordable bottles that isn't quite online yet now it is! In the meantime, though, along with the reds I tasted a number of whites, and was particularly impressed with the quality/price combination offered by Torrontés, Argentina's most distinctive local white grape.
To me, Torrontés recalls the aromatic flamboyance of Muscat combined with the light crispness of Pinot Grigio. In the past, too many examples I tasted were also insipid (also like a lot of Pinot Grigio), but that seems to be changing. The following four all struck me as remarkably tasty wines given what they cost; the first three are from Salta, in the north of Argentina, the next two from subregions of Mendoza, Tupungato and Lujan de Cuyo. Very generally speaking, Torrontés from Mendoza is going to be bigger-boned and riper than that from Salta...
2008 Yellow & Blue Torrontés ($12/1 liter tetra-pak, find this wine). Yellow & Blue uses only organically-grown grapes for its wines. This white balances crisp acidity and a succulent texture, and has an aroma recalling mango blossoms, or what the blossoms of mango trees ought to smell like, as far as I'm concerned.
2007 Terrazes de los Andes Unoaked Torrontes ($18, find this wine). Vineyards at 5,900 feet in Salta provide flinty, almost smoky Torrontés, if this wine is any indication. It doesn't have the extravagantly floral nose of some warmer climate versions, but it trades that for an elegant, intriguing mineral edge.
2007 Sagta Torrontés ($11, find this wine). Again this has a slight smoky note in the aroma, together with bright lime and tangerine; its creamy in texture, with lots of fresh-cut white peach flavor, before narrowing down—in a good way—to a brisk, citrus-zesty end. Has some staying power, too.
2007 Andeluna Winemaker Selection Torrontés ($13, find this wine). From the Tupungato region, this white smells of mandarin oranges and flowers, and carries those characteristics through in its flavor, adding a pink grapefruit note. That makes it sound quite sweet, but it isn't.
2007 Astica Torrontés ($8, find this wine). In many ways my favorite of this bunch, especially given the price. The Astica has a lovely Meyer lemon/lemon blossom scent, tart citrusy flavors and an edge of citrus zest in the finish. It would be a great seafood wine, or just chill the stuff down and sip it and imagine that it's June, not January....