Torrontés, Torrontés, Torrontés and a little more Torrontés please.
The first time I came across the wine, or even heard the word `Torrontés`, was at the famed, first `our wines, our land, r-souls` wine tasting in Westminster, back in the 1990s.
There were a little more than ten Argentine wine producers present at the doo, not really filling the enormous space on offer in the banqueting hall at Westminster. Someone had got their numbers a bit wrong. uy! There was really sufficient space, maybe for up to 100 wine producers at individual tables. If my memory serves me correctly, the emphasis was of course on Malbec, but four of the tables were showing off some white wines as well. Chardonnay and something called, Torrontés.
I got stuck into the Torrontés, of course, as it was something new for me, and my notes show that the wines were not very interesting at all, a little insipid, off sweet (not off dry, as they are today) and I cannot tell you the names of the bodegas as the ink that I used back then has not lasted the distance. Or maybe I splashed a little Malbec and or Chardonnay on the paper. Either way most of it is totally illegible, just a few tasting notes can be deciphered, by me.
So, let us fast forward a little now, to September 2017, some seventeen or eighteen years later on from the SW1 experience. I have just returned from spending a few days in Xuxuy (the most northern western province in the Republic of Argentina), not just to get some fresh-air, and take a mountain walk, but also to taste 23 different Torrontés’iz, a grape that is grown all over the republic, of this fair and pleasant land.
Please, let me explain. Whether you are in Chile, Bolivia or Argentina, this juicy little white grape can be found in large quantities just about everywhere. And also it is used to produce different kinds of beverage. (Chile? Pisco for example. Bolivia? Sanghia) Over the decades, of course I have tried most of them, the wine obviously, and yes the cocktails too. But for the purpose of this exercise it is to choose out of twenty three Torrontés, currently available on the local market, and reputedly the best on offer in Argentina today. And try and whittle the 23* down to maybe five? wines. Bare in mind please, that there are three main, different, varieties grown here of Argentine Torrontés, and in six different climates (Provinces). Torrontés Riojana, Torrontés Sanjuanino and Torrontés Mendocino are the culprits. Now as the Torrontés vine loves to be treated badly by strong winds and dry soils, topped up with chilly, sometimes freezing temperatures, the most suited of these wines and climates are to be found in the north of the country. Salta province is ideal, with altitudes climbing to 1.850masl, and continue all the way up the Calchaquies Valley that leads to the northern wine town of Cafayatte, and passing through Tolombon village where everyday, like clockwork (at 13 hundred hours), a strong wind blows through the Torrontés vineyards all the way up to Xuxuy, via Animana and other notable villages in the valley. Thank goodness this wind clock blows for most of the afternoon, whilst we are all having lunch, and of course later we can enjoy a proper siesta. Around 18hs everything calms down a bit, and we can begin to recuperate and also begin the wine tastings. Well, I do like to take walks and think a bit, so it took three sessions (days) to finish the tasting. In all, twenty three bottles were opened, and little old me managed to whittle it down to just three outstanding examples. Remember that when one is tasting five or six wines that all pretty much taste the same, this is no easy task at hand, as they tend to get bunched together a lot by me, for being quite simply too boring, and basically could be anything. All the wines are young and of course are meant to be, by the way. They are made for early drinking and should have good natural acidity and of course be florally aromatic. Hints of peach and apricot are always useful. The very bone dry versions I have no time for, they are trying too hard not to be Torrontés, with a Chardonnay price tag and I simply look for authenticity in the balance of acidity, fruits and drinkability. It is what the wine asks for, for goodness sake.
The final three that I would have no problem to go back to again and again to drink, especially numero uno, my favorite of all, are thus:
2016 Cafayatte Torrontés, Etchart
Delicate aromas of roses and orange peel. On the palate this wine has a light intense palate, if that is at all possible, with notes of fresh tropical fruits & white flowers, lifted by a vibrant acidity. Clean and short.
2015 Torrontés, Los Morros, Salta
Has a perfumed nose with notes of white flowers with a spicy twist à la Gewurztraminer. The palate is light with pungent flavors and has a soft texture, with moderate acidity. Slightly fuller than the wine before. I like it.
2016 Cafayatte Torrontés ‘RESERVE’, Etchart (my numero uno!)
The label is pretty similar to the one from the same stable, above, but with the one word that makes all the difference ‘RESERVE’. The wine shows an intense golden yellow color. Its delicate and complex aromas of jasmine, orange blossom, tropical fruits and Muscat stand out. In the mouth, it is fresh, with good volume and acidity, balanced and persistent. I love this wine a lot. I ordered empanadas de queso d’cabra (goat’s cheese) and I am in heaven. This is a real Torrontés. I hope they do not change this style.
Sorry to the guys who like to spend a lot on their Torrontés, but it is just not worth it. If you can find any of these wines, and maybe even in your local supermarket, you will not be disappointed in any way at all. I could not put five wines, maybe it was the altitude or attitude of the tasting, but these three stood out on all accounts. Bravissimo!
The main stay (the bulk of the other wines) where from these Bodegas: El Esteco, El Porvenir de Cafayate, Domingo Molina, El Tránsito, Nanni, Tierra Colorada, Finca Las Nubes, Quara, Colomé, Finca Las Curtiembres, Vasija Secreta, Viñas de Animaná, La Bodeguita, Bodega Las Flechas, Bodega El Cese, Bodega Isasmendi, Miraluna, Sala de Payogasta and Hemsy.
For any sensitives out there, no there is nothing wrong with your wine. They are pretty much the same, except in cost per bottle, and by the way, I know you know what I mean. To pay a high price for a well made white table wine (in the case a Torrontés) is not so difficult to achieve. Please stop trying to elevate an honest wine into something it is most definitely not.
Viva!, a little more Torrontés please!