By Elspeth Brown
I am sitting outside with the summer sun beating down on me as I write this article, and it is warm, even for Asheville. Sure, I should pour myself a tall glass of ice water, but I would much rather have a tall, chilled glass of Torrontes wine. This crisp, refreshing, white wine from Argentina is an interesting alternative to your typical, summertime white wines like Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc.
I have had Torrontes wine on my shelves since I opened 16 years ago. It has never been a grape varietal that has flown off the wine racks. But, over the last six months I have had a large uptake in interest from customers. Torrontes exportation to the US increased from 29,333 cases in 2004, to 231,000 cases in 2010, and is anticipated to double by the end of 2023. In comparison to other grape varietals, that isn’t a huge number of sales, but the growth and the projection of growth is enormous.
The Torrontes grape is originally from Argentina. One of the main characteristics of the wine is that it is highly aromatic. It possesses lots of floral qualities on the nose, almost like the extremely strong perfume my grandmother used to wear. Torrontes is an interesting varietal because it smells sweet like a Riesling or a Moscato, but it is deceiving. While there can be flavors of rose, peach or lemon zest on the palate, the wine finishes quite dry. The salinity that the drinker gets at the end of the sip, on the back of the palate, makes it a great white wine with food. It pairs perfectly with Indian dishes and Thai food. The saltiness on the finish is great when eating scallops, fish, chicken or hearty salads.
Torrontes grapes grow best in high-altitude vineyards with cooler nights. All of the elements help retain the acidity. If the climate is too warm, Torrontes wine can come across as sweet and flabby. The Salta region in northwestern Argentina has one of the highest elevation vineyards in the world at 3,000 feet above sea level. These are the wines that you really want to search out. The Torrontes wine from Salta will be one of the driest styles, with crisp acidity and a clean finish.
While Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio are still the best-selling white wines in the world, we can all get bored of the same old varietal, day after day. So, try shaking it up a little with a new white wine for your fridge. Grab a glass of ice-cold Torrontes, go outside, put your feet up, turn on some Otis Redding and enjoy the dog days of summer with style.
Elspeth Brown is the owner of Maggie B’s Wine & Specialty Store, 10 C South Main Street in Weaverville. For information, visit MaggieBsWine.com or call 828.645.1111.