Have you had enough Sauvignon Blanc? Bored of Pinot Grigio? Are you looking for a crisp, white wine with a bit more umpf and loads of personality?
The word you are looking for is Torrontés (tohr-rohn-tess), and it refers to the name of a little known grape variety from Argentina. A rare crossing between the highly aromatic Muscat of Alexandria—maybe the most elegant grape in the Muscat family—and Criolla Chica—or Mission—this varietal is native to Argentina.
Planted throughout Argentina, Torrontés reaches its potential in impressively high-altitude vineyards that stretch between 3,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Andes, surrounded by cactuses. The best vineyards are in the Northwestern provinces of Salta—La Rioja, Tucumán and Catamarca—where the famous Cafayate Valley is located. In these parts, the soil is very poor and rocky, and the weather is dry and sunny. Cafayate gets over three hundred days of sunlight every year, ensuring the grapes are ripe and ultra-aromatic.
Torrontés is all about flavor. While it may trick you into thinking it is sweet at first sniff, it usually has a complex, distinctive grapey note, and aromas of rose petals, oriental spice, mango, honeysuckle and mango. Torrontés is generally dry, with a steely, vibrant backbone, which makes it perfectly refreshing and crisp, yet full bodied and intense.
Look for producers like Terrazas—yet another opportunity to roll your Rs—Alta Vista, Críos, Michel Torino, San Pedro de Yacochuya, Colomé, Amalaya, Domingo Molina, Etchart, Mauricio Lorca or Zolo to taste some of the best Torrontés that Argentina has to offer. While Torrontés is great on its own as an aperitif or by the swimming pool, you can also pair it with seafood, Argentine empanadas, sushi or ceviche for a full treat.
Last, the best examples of Torrontés sell at between $10 and $15 a bottle, a great value for parties and casual drinking. So, this summer, challenge your taste buds, and roll your Rs in Latin fashion; order un Torrontés, por favor.
Andrés Rosberg is one of Argentina’s first professional sommeliers. He is currently the President of the Argentine Sommelier Association (AAS), which he co-founded, the Secretary General of the Panamerican Sommelier Alliance (APAS), and is a member of the Education Commission of the International Sommelier Association (ASI).