Have you ever woken up sore? Maybe day after a workout or rough day at work? Oh, yes. I'm right there. So I wish I were in Argentina where it's warm and have a glass of Torrontes. What is Torrontes you ask?
Varietal Overview: Torrontes
History and Cultivation
Many who are new to the world of wine may not have heard of Torrontes, the aromatic white wine-producing grape which is native to Argentina and known to produce the flagship white wine out of the country. In fact, there are actually three distinct varieties of Torrontes grape grown in Argentina; Torrontes Riojano, Torrontes Sanjuanino, and Torrontes Mendocino. Of these three, Torrontes Riojano is the most common and popular, known for the high-quality wines which they produce.
Genetically speaking, DNA profiling has found that although these three grapes are EXTREMELY closely related, they are all slightly different, but all are the results from various crosses with Moscatel Amarillo (a form of muscat) grapes. Likely, the newly-minted crosses of Torrontes grapes grew unnoticed amongst their parental grapes for quite some time and were even blended into various wines. However, It is thought that the original wines produced from these Torrontes crossings were made sometime in the 19th century, as this is when the first original records mentioning the grapes date. Like most other popular grape varietals, Torrontes has ventured out of its homeland in Argentina and has found land in Chile and, surprisingly, Bolivia. Unlike many of the world’s most popular varietals, Torrontes grapes have not been cultivated in many of the most popular viticultural areas on the planet such as in France or in the United States. Although some other countries grow grapes that are similar to the three original Torrontes grapes from Argentina (such as Spain), it is unclear and unlikely that these grapes are a product of vine-cutting transport, and are likely just distantly related if that.
These three Torrontes grapes may all be remarkably similar, but there are some noticeable differences, especially when it come to the appearance of the grapes as they grow on the vine. Torrontes Sanjuanino and Torrontes Riojano tend to grow in large, loose bunches with light pale-colored grapes. Torrontes Mendocino, on the other hand, grows in smaller, more compact bunches with smaller grapes that are a darker yellow. Typically speaking, Torrontes grapes grow best in high altitudes and sandy soil, such as in the Salta province of northern Argentina. The sandy soil creates a dry environment that allows the vines to be water-stressed, which leads to a lower yield per-vine, but better quality and more concentrated grapes. Add in some hot sun and dry heat and these grapes flourish.
Tasting Profile and Pairings
All in all, these wines are best for early-drinking, tend to be highly aromatic (often with floral components such as rose petals), fresh and crisp but also with a nice smooth feel on the palate due to moderate acidity. The quality of the wine produced by these grapes is highly dependent on the skill-level of the winemaker, as maintaining an appropriate soil acidity can mean the difference between a bitter, chalking wine or a floral, crisp wine. Many say that the best Torrontes wines are produced from the Riojano variety grapes, grown in the high-altitude soil of Salta, Argentina. Torrontes wines are typically made in a dry style yet have a sweet nose that can give the illusion of a sweeter wine. The nose of Torrontes wines involves plenty of jasmine, rose, geranium, and honeysuckle. Typically, winemakers like to preserve the delicate floral aroma of Torrontes wine by using steel-barrel as opposed to oak-aging. These wines will pair nicely with most Thai peanut dishes, spicy empanadas, or other spicy Asian dishes. Due to the crispness, moderate acidity, and balanced fruit, Torrontes can stand up against dishes with some spice.
There are some slight differences between the varieties of Torrontes grapes in the wines that they produce. Torrontes Riojano is revered as producing the “best” and highest quality of these wines. These grapes tend to have enhanced aromas, and a good balance between acidity and sugar. Torrontes Sanjuanino has similar characteristics to the Riojano grapes, but most say Sanjuanino still comes in second as far as aroma and balance of flavor is concerned. These wines also tend to have slightly more minerality than the other varieties. Torrontes Mendocino is not nearly as revered as the other two varieties, and it is for this reason that planting acreage of these grapes is steadily in decline. This variety produces wines that are not nearly as aromatic or balanced. Therefore, wine experts will almost always recommend trying Torrontes Riojano first, as these grapes produce the Torrontes wines that are most representative of the fine quality Argentinian whites that can be produced.
Try this Recipe with a Crisp Torrontes Riojano!
Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles
Red bell pepper
Salted roasted peanuts
Creamy peanut butter
Cook noodles according to package instructions. While the noodles cook, whisk together the spicy peanut sauce. Drain pasta, then toss with peanut sauce, chopped veggies, cilantro and peanuts.
Garnish with peanuts and sesame seeds.