Posted April 19, 2012 Fresh and aromatic, with floral notes accenting the light tangerine and melon character that carries the finish.
With cherry blossoms in full bloom, now is a good time to turn our attention toward a fresh, floral white. But to solve this riddle, it’s best to start with the richer varietals first and work our way backward.
Sémillon makes full-bodied whites, with waxy layers of spice and ripe fruit. Chardonnay also predominantly makes full-bodied whites. Even when produced in a cool region, it features more green apple and citrus than our floral tangerine and melon notes. These varietals are out.
Riesling is an aromatic varietal and gets us closer to an answer, but we’re missing the grape’s signature peach and lime notes.
Sauvignon Blanc is another aromatic varietal that can feature tangerine and melon, but here we’re missing the grape’s typical herbaceous character that often comes through as chive or straw depending on climate conditions.
Finally, we’re left with Torrontés, a light-bodied aromatic grape variety that typically displays Muscat-like tangerine, melon and floral notes.
This is a Torrontés.
Significant plantings of Torrontés are limited to two countries: Spain and Argentina. Yet the Torrontés of Spain and Argentina are technically different species called by the same name.
Spanish Torrontés is grown in the northwest Galicia region and it’s typically more citrusy than floral. It’s also mostly used in blends.
The Torrontés we know best for its tangerine and floral notes is from Argentina. To make the matter more complicated, though, Argentina actually grows three different types of Torrontés: Torrontés Riojano, Torrontés Sanjuanino and Torrontés Mendocino.
In terms of quantity and quality, the former leads and is the country’s second-most widely planted white wine grape.
This Torrontés (Riojano) is from Argentina.
As a rule of thumb, aromatic whites are best consumed young, while they retain their freshness and fruit-forward character.
Our wine still exhibits its fresh youth and is from the currently released 2010 vintage.
This Torrontés is two years old.
We have two appellations in Argentina to consider, and both produce significant quantities of Torrontés.
Mendoza represents the heart of Argentina’s wine production. Its dry, warm climate, however, is best-suited for the country’s signature red varietal, Malbec. Torrontés from this region tends to be ripe and round, with more peach and spice notes.
Salta is located in the north of Argentina. While it’s closer to the equator, most vineyards are located between 4,000 and 9,000 feet above sea level. These high-altitude vineyards feature abundant sun and cool nights, which make for zesty, fresh whites.
This Torrontés is from Salta.
This is the Torrontés Salta 2010 from Tilia, which was rated 85 points in the Oct. 31, 2011, issue of Wine Spectator. It retails for $10, and 3,500 cases were imported into the U.S.
For more information on Torrontés and the wines of Argentina, please see my recent tasting report, "Argentina Tests the Extremes," in the Dec. 15, 2011, issue.
—Nathan Wesley, tasting coordinator
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