Hot Topic: Torrontes - Argentina's Best White Wine
By Lee Asbel, Suite101.com
Updated April 5, 2010
A new trend is emerging with Argentina's best-known white wine, Torrontes. Is it a new varietal? Hardly. But it's only recently that Torrontes has found a home on U.S. shelves. What is it? Where does it come from? What does it taste like?
As a former colony of Spain, it is no surprise that Argentina's Torrontes grape was believed to have been introduced by Basque settlers. Many claim it is a native Argentine grape. According to a 5/28/08 Daily Herald article by columnist Mary Ross, recent genetic testing indicates that Torrontes is a hybrid of Muscat of Alexandria and Criolla Chica.
Salta Province - Land of Torrontes
Whatever the heritage of Torrontes, no one disputes that in Argentina the grape expresses itself in a manner distinctly different from anything grown in Spain or in neighboring Chile. Even within Argentina, different growing areas produce varying results. Critics give the highest marks to Torrontes that comes from the northwestern province of Salta.
Wine writer Katherine Cole's Oregonian article dated 8/26/08 says the reason Salta province is ideal for Torrontes has to do with high-altitude vineyards that get both intense sun and cool temperatures. In particular, the small town of Cafayate with vineyards over 3,300 feet in elevation produce the most sought after versions of Torrontes. Look for either Salta or Cafayate on the back side of wine bottle labels as the front may not indicate where the grapes come from.
So, what is all the fuss about? A good Torrontes will have an intense nose of flowers and tropical fruits but don't get confused and think that means it will be sweet. Torrontes is usually bone dry with a light to medium weight, good acidity and a long finish.
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