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A Taste of Torrontés from Argentina

August 26, 2011 - by Sarah Goddard

The allure of Torrontés sweeps you away unsuspectingly as you plunge into the heady aromas of Argentina’s most famous white wine.  Your senses fill with the fragrance of a summertime garden – a sweet perfume of roses, blossoms, peaches, and citrus.  When you taste this wine you are again surprised – what you thought would certainly be a sweet wine turns out to be refreshingly dry and crisp.  When sipped on its own, Torrontés can revitalize you on a hot summer day, but it can also complement many different dishes including mild to medium-strong cheeses, seafood, salads, and even Asian food.

Torrontés is unique to Argentina, a crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Criolla Chica. DNA testing has proven that it is not the same as the Torrontés from Spain.  Argentina cultivates three different types of Torrontés: Torrontés Riojano, Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino.  Torrontés Riojano, named after the Argentine province of La Rioja and not the Spanish region of the same name, is the most planted and most aromatic of the three and is widely believed to make the best wine.

Many of the best Torrontés come from the northernmost region of Salta, especially in the area of Cafayate.  Salta has some of the highest altitude vineyards in Argentina – some can be almost 10,000 feet high!  The high altitudes mean cooler temperatures in these lower latitudes, yielding grapes with higher acidity and an assertive flavour profile.  Torrontés grown in La Rioja can also produce voluptuous yet elegant wines.

I first tasted Torrontés in Sommelier class.  I was impressed by the intense floral and tropical fruit aromas which reminded me of Viognier or perhaps Gewurztraminer.  I was hooked.  I have since tasted several Torrontés, but one of my favourites is Bodegas Etchart Cafayate Torrontés made with grapes grown in old vineyards at over 5000 feet above sea level.  Opulent and seductive, its concentrated flavours of blossoms and fruit, and zippy acidity keep me coming back for more.

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