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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Torrontés Wine, Commercial & Homemade: Varietal Review

By Steve Siciliano

Because I am a wine merchant, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I had never heard of Torrontés until last fall when wine-kit maker Winexpert announced that the varietal was being offered as one of their 2013 Limited Edition releases. The company’s product description sounded intriguing—hints of peach pit, flowers, and orange citrus fruit, a lush structure and a vibrant acidity. But it wasn’t until Barb and I were in Philadelphia a few weeks ago that I actually drank, and enjoyed, a bottle of Argentina’s signature white wine at a downtown bistro.

I probably shouldn’t be too hard on myself because most oenophiles, wine merchants or not, are not familiar with Torrontés either. The grape is grown virtually nowhere but Argentina, a country best known for producing outstanding malbecs. But over the past few years Argentine winemakers have begun looking for new markets and have increased exports of their country’s best white.

The Torrontés grape thrives in Argentina’s unique microclimate. The vineyards that produce the best fruit lie in the shadows of the Andes and are some of the highest in the world. The high altitudes coupled with scarce rainfall stress the vines, but those conditions also translate into wines that are refreshingly acidic and highly aromatic.

I love white wines with distinctive citrus flavors, spicy aromas and backbones of mouth puckering acidity. A good Torrontés displays all three characteristics—sort of like a cross between a floral, spicy gewürztraminer and a zesty, citrusy New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

We currently have two brands of Torrontés on the shelves at Siciliano’s, and they are good ones:

  • Zuccardi Torrontés 2010, $13.39/750ml – “Intense yellow greenish color. Delicate and unique nose, full of white flowers such as roses and citrus blossom. Also notes of mature white fruits and citrus zest. The wine is well structured with a lively acidity but remains centered around the aromatic intensity and delicate finish. This wine is great as aperitif and a perfect match for Asian food, fish dishes and fresh salads” (source).
  • Padrillos Torrantes 2011, $13.49/750ml – “Exotic lychee and mangosteen notes greet the nose and carry through into the mouth, which is extremely delicate in the manner of a fine dessert wine. Not that the wine is too sweet – it has just enough sugar to balance its lightness. A good match for mildly flavored dishes like seafood bisques” (source). 
These wines pair wonderfully with grilled fish or a spicy Indian dish. They are also nice to simply sip by themselves while watching fire flies on a warm summer evening on the backyard deck.

Winemakers might be interested to know that we have a few of the Limited Edition Torrontés wine kits available for $134.00.

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