TorrontÉs: Argentina's Other Grape

Snowy grapesIs Torrontés the next big thing to hit the wine world? Torrontés is a floral, fragrant, crisp white vitis vinifera unique to Argentina. It’s easy to drink, especially as an aperitif and is often viewed as a more fragrant and fruity substitute for Pinot Grigio. Its export sales are growing rapidly, up 26 percent between 2009 and 2010 alone, and its average export price now exceeds that of Chardonnay for Argentina.

There are in fact four different Torrontés in Argentina, three of which are different, spontaneous crossings of Muscat of Alexandria with Criolla Chica, the grape the Spanish missionaries brought to South America in the 16th century to produce sacramental wine. There is widespread consensus that only one of these varieties—Torrontés Riojano—produces quality wines, and most of the highest quality wines are today made in the province of Salta and, in particular, Valles Calchaquíes where the winemaking town of Cafayete is located, although we’ve tasted very good wines from Mendoza, La Rioja (Valle de Famatima, especially), and San Juan (Valle de Tulum), too. Perhaps the single most important Torrontés winemaker in Salta today is José Luis Mounier, who makes wine under his own label as well as for Las Arcas, Tukma, and Zuccardi.

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