Torrontés is a white Argentine wine grape variety, producing fresh, aromatic wines with moderate acidity, smooth texture and mouthfeel with distinctive peach and apricot aromas on the nose.
Over the last few months, I have seen and heard how wine tasting groups, sommeliers and the wine industry, in general, is fixated on Torrontés.
In the wine business, when you hear something once, you can dismiss it as possible promotion. For example, did you hear that “Emilio Estevez and his crew are hanging out at the San Dimas Wine Shop?” While that might be true, it also might be something I just said, hoping for it to be true. Emilio is my favorite Sheen family member. You might remember him from Youngs Guns, the movie that inspired (paid) Bon Jovi to write Blaze of Glory. Not only do I consider that my theme song, but I believe Emilio and I would be fast friends.
So…, if you hear something once, it may or may not be true. Hearing something repeatedly, warrants investigation.
Well it turns out Torrontés is having a wine nerd moment and there are many good, fun, and educational reasons for Torrontés’ current moment in the wine spotlight.
Let’s start with the grape itself. Torrontés is a white grape varietal most commonly associated with Argentina. It was originally assumed to be brought to Argentina from Spain. Migrating Galician workers couriered the grape, Albillo Major, and renamed it Torrontés. However, DNA testing has recently revealed this might not be true. Torrontés might be a descendant of Moscatel and Muscat varieties. Albillo is a white wine grape varietal with a light perfume aroma and a high glycerol index. Torrontés is much bolder in aroma profile and has a high glycerol index. It was assumed the new region allowed the aroma profile to shine. Enter the DNA reveal, we are shocked, but not shocked. Muscat is another high glycerol index grape with a floral perfume nose with additional notes of citrus, rose and peach, which is a much better match with Torrontés. But wait there’s more! The most direct DNA relationship is with Muscat d’Alessandrie, one of the oldest grape varietals. It is rumored that Cleopatra drank wine from this grape. From a paternity perspective, we just went from respectable hard-working Spanish migrants to empire rulers and historical royal lineage. The Torrontés story has all the makings of an evening with the Lifetime Movie Channel. Young Torrontés grew up in a loving and supportive middle class family but dreamed of romance and adventure. Then young Torrontés took a 23&Me DNA test and their whole world turned upsidedown…. “Lifetime - Your Movie’s on...”
This is fun stuff for wine nerds like Emilio Estevez, who can make any kind of nerd or Outsider cool.
Regardless of where Torrontés comes from it found a home in Argentina and has become its most notable white wine. Torrontés is grown in four regions with the most beloved coming from Salta. Salta is known for high altitude, low humidity, hot days and cold nights. Emilio would quickly point out that this is ideal growing conditions for aromatic wines and boosting much needed acidity levels (remember the high glycerol index that needs to be balanced). Argentinian wine makers have also worked hard to control the very vigorous vine, pruning it back and dropping fruit to concentrate the flavors. Before these efforts Torrontés tended to end up flabby and dull, but not anymore.
The coming together of a grape with questionable history, finding a home in an ideal wine growing region, combined with new vineyard management techniques and growing Argentine wine expertise; have contributed to making Torrontés an incredibly complex, concentrated and uniquely delicious wine.
Torrontés is complex, every time you swirl the glass and smell, you are apt to discover new aromas. Every time you take a sip, you are likely to pick out a new flavor. In between these sips and swirls there is room to discuss what you are experiencing. This kind of wine experience slows us down and gives us a chance to discuss history, geography, winemaking and get to know each other better. You can slow your life down with Saturday detention or a wine like Torrontés.
One more fun note. All that complexity and concentration makes Torrontés an excellent white wine to pair with spicy Argentinian or spicy Asian cuisine. Very few white wines can stand up to spicy cuisine, but Torrontés is one of them.
This week we have a brand new Torrontés on the tasting menu. It came into the shop late last week. 2016 Domingo Hermanos Torrontés, from Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina. Wine Advocate gives it 92 points and Wine Enthusiast, 87 points. I “heard” that Emilio Estevez gives it a Mighty Ducks, 5 out of 5 quacks. We want to know what you think.
Come in and try it with the other delicious imports included on this week’s tasting.
P.S. Emilio if you read this, come by so we can hang.
P.S.S. Great job on, "Bobby"
Robinson, Jancis Vines, Grapes & Wines pg 47, 246 Mitchell Beazley 1986 ISBN 1-85732-999-6
Torontel, Vitis International Variety Catalogue, accessed 2010-07-14