Go Light With Torrontes

Written by Our Town on . Posted in Eat & Drink, Lifestyle, Our Town, West Side Spirit.


Argentinean white goes perfect with warm winter

By Josh Perilo

I left the house on Tuesday to move my car and I wasn’t wearing a coat.

Yes, this is the wine column, but I felt that sentence needed to be said. It’s both thrillingly amazing (considering the snow spanking we got last year) and very, very scary. By the way, thanks, Al Gore! I still have trouble sleeping whenever it’s unseasonably warm.

But let’s focus on the positive, which is that this weather is kicking some serious butt! Winter is usually the time when I stock up on heavy reds like Cali cabs, those amped up, high-alcohol shirazes from Western Australia and big, earthy tannin monsters from northern Italy. This year, however, those wines just seem out of place and a bit smothering.

So instead I’ve been turning to wines I usually don’t give a second glance until April or May. It’s allowed me to go back and reconsider some selections that I’ve never tried or completely forgotten, which is how I ran into my long lost friend torrontes.

Torrontes is a grape that is indigenous to Argentina. It is also, sadly, a varietal that rings few bells with the vast majority of United States wine drinkers. That’s unfortunate, because these are some of the best bang-for-your-buck white wines from anywhere. It’s also strange, because torrontes is the most produced white wine in Argentina. The typical flavor profile is fruit-forward and light- to medium-bodied with citrus and apple notes, but as you’ll see from my selections, there are a number of ways the profile for this versatile grape can go.

So, allow me to take you by the hand and lead you through the delicious and inexpensive field of Argentinean torrontes.
If you haven’t tried torrontes before, a great one to start with is the Bodegas Callia Torrontes Tulum Valley Alta 2010 ($9.45 at Morrell and Company, 1 Rockefeller Plz., 48th St. & 5th Ave., 212-688-9370). This is a simple, pared-down, refreshingly delicious wine that will kick the door open for those who are new to the grape. On the nose, there’s a good amount of fresh orange zest. The citrus flavors continue on the palate with riper tangerine notes up front. The middle becomes sparer and more herbal with notes of chervil, and the finish has a clean, bright minerality.

For a torrontes that stays simple but has a little more body to it, look no further than Bodega Monteviejo Torrontes Argentina Festivo 2010 ($13 at Yorkshire Wines and Spirits, 1646 1st Ave. at 85th St., 212-717-5100)—it takes the basic profile of torrontes and kicks up the intensity several notches. Scents of intense wildflowers waft from the glass.

Honeysuckle and orchid are the main event. On the palate, though, it’s all about tropical fruit and melon; lots of mango up front with notes of honeydew through the middle and a dollop of lychee on the finish.

Taking the intensity and dialing it up even more, the Bodegas y Vinedos La Esperanza Torrontes Cafayate Menduco Reserve 2010 ($12.75 at Garnet Wines and Liquors, 929 Lexington Ave., betw. 68th & 69th Sts., 212-772-3211) is possibly the spiciest torrontes I’ve ever tried. Right out of the bottle and into the glass the wine smells simpler than it tastes, with scents of pear and orange peel. Up front on the palate, however, there’s a good amount of white pepper and starfruit. This leads to a mid with white peach and ripe orange flavors. The finish is full and floral with magnolia blossom and papaya notes. This is the Torrontes to pair with a spicy Pad Thai.

And for those who love the classic flavors of French, old-world-style white wines, try the Bodegas y Vinedos La Esperanza Torrontes Cafayate Valley Finca El Origen Reserve 2010 ($12 at Garnet Wines and Liquors). This wine has all the telltale scents and flavors of a lean and racy Chablis; wet granite is the main event on the nose. The palate continues the minerality throughout with green apple, pear and lemon zest on the finish.

So don’t be afraid to go light this winter. Think of it as a preview of our (hopefully) beautiful spring!

Follow Josh on Twitter: @joshperilo.

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