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Torrontés rising

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, and Alice Wentworth

In recent years, Argentina has taken the U.S. wine market by storm with its juicy red wines made from the Malbec grape. Simultaneously, however, a potential second weapon in the arsenal of Argentine winemakers has emerged, the white grape Torrontés.

In 2010, 231,000 cases of Torrontés were exported to the U.S. That number may seem paltry when compared to the 3,150,000 cases of Malbec sold to the U.S. that same year (NY Times, Feb. 1, 2011). What is remarkable, however, is that in 2004, we imported only 29,333 cases of Torrontés; that’s a nearly eightfold increase in only 6 years.

The rapid ascent of Torrontés in the American marketplace may partly be attributable to the grape’s distinctive character. A genetic cross of Muscat of Alexandria and Mission, Torrontés typically exhibits at least a bit of the floral grapiness associated with Muscat. Many examples add intriguing hints of the spiciness of Gewurztraminer and the peachiness of Viognier.

The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted a selection of 15 Torrontés wines. The best examples were fresh and aromatic, managing to be fruity and a bit peppery at the same time. The top wines also had sufficient acidity to keep their flavors lively.

The staff’s top pick was the Colomé 2012 Torrontés ($13). Hailing from northern Argentina’s Calchaqui Valley, it was produced from grapes grown nearly 6,000 feet above sea level. The lovely 2012 rendition sports a floral nose with hints of citrus, apricot, and ginger. Its fresh flavors are very persistent and end with a long, dry, peachy finish.

The close runner-up was the excellent Dos Minas 2012 Torrontés ($11), produced in the Cafayate Valley by winemakers Lucía Romero and Heather Willens as a joint project. Only 500 cases of this Torrontés were made. Produced from grapes grown at the same dizzyingly high altitude as the Colomé, it is a bit fuller-bodied and packed with appealingly peachy fruit.

Try both of these delicious wines either on their own or with spicy Asian dishes, guacamole, light pastas, or grilled chicken. The wines’ wonderful fragrance makes them perfect wines for outdoor dining, so do consider them for your next picnic!

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