Without a doubt, spring is in the air and according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration it’s looking like we have just experienced the third warmest winter on record. Cherry trees in D.C. are way ahead of schedule, as in peak bloom by mid-March is the current forecast. In and around Culpeper it’s looking quite springy too and white wine sales are more brisk than usual for this time of year. Suddenly we are making recommendations for lighter styles to enjoy with friends on picnics and outdoor entertaining.
There are a number of spectacular choices and one that’s a particular standout, but not so well known is torrontes. Very few customers specifically request torrontes, but it’s a super white wine grape to straddle that winter to spring transition. It’s not as heavy as chardonnay or as light as pinot grigio for example, and definitely worth getting to know.
Torrontes is the most widely planted white grape of Argentina, but is often overshadowed by the ever popular red, Malbec. Not only is it the most widely planted, torrontes is unique to Argentina only and cultivated in the provinces of Mendoza, Salta, La Rioja, San Juan, Rio Negro and Catamarca. In fact, there are three exclusive varieties of torrontes with the most famous and extensively planted being torrontes Riojana. It’s a cross of muscat of Alexandria with listan prieto – a red grape.
It has a distinct personality with abundant aromatics, including a gorgeous floral/citrus nose, so much that you might wonder if you should drink it or wear it, but the beauty doesn’t just stop at the nose. The flavors are fresh and lively with tropical fruit, orange citrus and a touch of green herbs. While its muscat roots and the flavor profile may imply sweet, torrontes is typically bone dry, refreshing and crisp. Typically, the wine is aged in stainless steel, with just a handful seeing minimal exposure to oak for added depth and texture. One of my favorite regions for torrontes is Salta in northernmost Argentina and in particular, torrontes planted at higher elevations, 5,600 feet or more in this region. The vines benefit from hot sunny days for ultimate ripening and cool nights for retaining fresh acidity, making for the ultimate spring sipper in my opinion.
Should you find yourself feeling adventurous and in the mood for something a little different, stop by the shop for a bottle of torrontes. It also pairs well with fresh fish, shellfish, spicy Thai or Indian cuisine. The added bonus, since Torrontes is still fairly new on the scene, the prices are very reasonable. You get a lot of complexity/bang for your buck with this one.
Cheers and happy early Spring!