Ray Isle (@islewine on Twitter) is Food & Wine's executive wine editor. We trust his every cork pop and decant – and the man can sniff out a bargain to boot. Take it away, Ray.
There’s a category of wine-producing countries you could call the one-hit wonders. For instance, New Zealand - the place makes some great Pinot Noirs, and more than a few terrific Syrahs - but if you punch a random sommelier on the shoulder and yell, “New Zealand wine!” odds are they’ll yell back, “Sauvignon Blanc!” (And then probably punch you, too, but whatever.)
Germany’s the same way: all Riesling, all the time, except when you consider that in fact Germany is the third-largest Pinot Noir producing country in the world, after France and the US. Of course, 99 percent of German Pinot stays in Germany, but still.
And then there’s Argentina. Argentina = Malbec. Everyone knows that by now, and the Argentines aren’t exactly unhappy about it, either - Malbec sales rose 17 percent last year, a trend that’s been going on for a while now. But what about Torrontés?
Torrontés, a white grape, makes wines that are flamboyantly aromatic—think bouquet-of-flowers-plus-mandarin-oranges—medium-bodied and full of juicy, citrus flavor. Grow the vines someplace cool, and the wine’s delicious; grow it somewhere too warm, and the stuff goes wildly over the top and smells like a fruit truck some madman drove into a perfume shop. That tends to mean the best Torrontés comes from Salta, in northwest Argentina, where the lowest vineyards are around 5,000 feet elevation and the highest is above 10,000—breathtaking in more ways than one.
Five Terrific Torrontés to Try
2011 Hermanos Torrontés ($15)
A sweet scent of Mandarin oranges is the defining note of this minerally wine, which comes from a vineyard at 5,500 feet altitude—a little more than a mile high.
2011 Coquena Torrontés ($20)
From a winery named after a mystical Argentine elf - and why not? - this fresh, vibrant white has lots of texture, but isn’t heavy.
2012 Bodega Colomé Torrontés ($15)
From a winery owned by entrepreneur Donald Hess (who also owns California’s Hess Collection), this super-high-altitude bottling has a graceful floral aroma and crisp, tangerine-y flavors.
2011 Terrazas de los Andes Reserva Torrontés ($16)
This large, Mendoza-based producer uses fruit from Salta’s high-altitude vineyards for this elegantly layered white.
2012 Crios Torrontés ($13)
Probably the most popular Torrontés bottling in the US, and for good reason. Winemaker Susanna Balbo effortlessly balances the bright acidity of Salta with the richness of Mendoza to produce a peachy, lush wine that’s still light on its feet.
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© 2011 American Express Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.
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Shhhh, don't tell everyone! Torrontes is my favorite secret grape.
Nothing to see here folks, go back to your chardonnay.
I don't know *why* I am so tickled by the use of the phrase "secret grape" here, but I am.
Not even close to the worse Chilean wines.
I'll say! You wouldn't use a typical Chilean wine in the WORST wine spritzer -as it would only make a bad thing WORSE.
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