About The Author:
"Roger, The Wine Guy" is Roger Yazell, CWS. He is a member of the International Wine Guild and has had a long time admiration of wine. After careers in broadcasting, advertising and marketing account management, he explored his love of wine in hospitality, wholesale and retail sales. The intent of Roger's Grapevine is to share stories, history and information that will add to the reader's love, enjoyment and appreciation of wine and sake'.
Questions, requests for topics and comments are always welcome via email: email@example.com.
(Note: The Wine Guy is currently undergoing chemotherapy and this blog will be on hiatus for the duration and into a recovery period. The Wine Guy is planning to celebrate his recovery with a trip to the two wine producing regions in Argentina and that should provide for some interesting new blogs. Meanwhile please enjoy the archives and feel free to email in the interim.)
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Torrontes: A cool little white that's about to get hot!
Wine production in Argentina is over 450 years old. Spanish Jesuits established its first commercial vineyard in 1557. Argentina is currently (2006 figures) ranked fourth worldwide in wine production, just ahead of Australia. It is in Argentina where you find the greatest concentration of high altitude vineyards in the world. The bulk of this country’s vineyards lie between 3,000 and 3,500 ft. (In comparison, French vineyards do not exceed 1,800 foot in altitude). Along with its neighbor, Chile, it has no problems associated with phylloxera. The infamous wine insect pest that nearly destroyed the world’s vineyards in the late 1800’s does not exist in Chile and the one variety that does exist in Argentina is so biologically weak as to NOT pose a threat to vineyards. Despite all these advantages, Argentina doesn’t rank in the top twelve countries for wine exports.
A high per capita consumption is one reason for the variance between Argentina’s world rank in wine production and exports. In 1970 Argentina led the world in annual per capita wine consumption at about 90 liters (roughly, a bottle of wine every other day). While its per capita declined to less than half that amount by 2006, it still consumed 90% of the wine it produced and its annual per capita consumption was still about 5 times that of the United States. Another issue impacting the exportation of Argentinean wine in earlier decades was the emphasis on high yields in the vineyards. This was required in order to meet the high domestic consumption demand and resulted in a sacrifice of wine quality.
Over the past few years, this pattern has changed. Argentinean reds, led by its dominant varietal Malbec, have shown a consistent improvement in quality and for the past two years have become a favorite for consumers to explore. Malbecs from Argentina have been extremely hot (in the sense of marketplace popularity…not taste) and are leading to significant growth in Argentinean wine exports. Over the past few years Malbec has become a signature wine for Argentina.
There’s also a white wine from Argentina that has the potential to also become a signature wine and that’s Torrontes. Unlike Malbec, it is not commonly found around the world. There are three varietals in Argentina and growers believe the grape originated in Spain. There is a Torrontes in a small region of Spain today but the name is used there as a synonym for the Granacha Blanco, a different grape. Torrontes is very uniquely Argentinean. Today, this grape is among the top four grown in Argentina and there is twice as much acreage in Torrontes as there is Chardonnay. It is produces the country’s most popular white wine
As a grape Torrontes generally produces wines that are pale gold in color with floral aromas and tropical fruit flavors touched with light overtones of apricot or honey and accented with a slight and subtle citrus acidity. They are dry, crisp, totally refreshing whites. If you live in a climate with hot dry summers (such as The Wine Guy’s home of Arizona), Torrontes could easily become your summertime favorite. Most Torrontes are single varietal and it is there you’ll find some of its best expressions. But it can also be found blended with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc.
Here are a few of the wines that you may want to look for and try if you’re curious about this great white wine from Argentina:
Notro Torrontes: from the Mendoza region, a good basic representation of this wine.
Urban Uco Torrontes: This is the value label of the renowned Fournier family that produces wine in Chile, Spain and Portugal in addition to Argentina. It offers the most citrus acidity of the list presented here.
Zolo Torrontes: From the Famatina Valley, this is one of most consistently high-rated Torrontes to come out of Argentina.
Crios Torrontes: From Cayfayate in Argentina’s Salta region and produced by Susan Balboa, this is probably the most floral and smooth finishing Torrontes on the list.
If you enjoy Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Riesling, or Pinot Grigio, odds are very high that you will also enjoy Torrontes. Make an effort to try this crisp little wine from Argentina and don’t be surprised if it becomes the next South American wine to be highly sought after by consumers.
As my Greek friends would say: Vale krasi!