There is no doubt in the wine industry that South America is the new ‘hot’ (in terms of popularity) growing region of the world. One of my favorite finds has been not the signature Malbec, but a relatively unknown white grape – Torrontes. See the details below and taste my recommendation at our Century Club Tasting this Thursday.
Grape Name: Torrontes
Pronunciation: Tor RON taze,
Color: Green skin grape, produces white wine.
From: Torrontes has recently become the standout white grape from Argentina – namely Mendoza. It can also be found in small quantities in Chile, as it is successful growing at high altitudes.
History: Torrontes is actually a general name used for three different varieties: Torrontés Riojano, Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. Torrontes Riojano is the most common and has come to be referred to as simply ‘Torrontes.’ This is the majority of the white wine that you will see in the U.S. All three varieties are native to Argentina from the Criollas grape family, an American born family with roots from the European species -vitis vinifera. Recent DNA testing has found that Torrontes is a cross between Muscat of Alexandria and the Mission grapes.
Climate: Torrontes prefers a high altitude climate with dry and windy conditions.
Characteristics: Torrontes can produce two very different styles of wine: crisp and light or full-bodied and fruit forward. The crisp and light style is most similar to an Italian Pinot Grigio with amble acidity, citrus flavors and a light body. The second style features flavors of honey suckle, tropical fruits and citrus. It is most comparable to a unoaked,warm climate Chardonnay.
Pairing: Depending on the style, this wine does best with seafood and poultry with light sauces that are lemon or white wine based.
Recommendation: Goulart Torrontes, $15
Things have been heating up in Florida and across the country lately. When temperatures start to spike into the 90′s I’m not apt to open that heavy bottle of Cabernet or Zinfandel. So here are a few of my new favorite summer wines, which also conveniently pair extremely well with summer cuisine (can you say grill?)
Best Light White: Pascual Toso Torrontes, 2009
From: Mendoza, Argentina
Grape(s): 100% Torrontes
Torrontes is my new favorite white wine, but boy am I picky when it comes to the bottle. I’ve seen it made it two distinctive styles: light & crisp (like an Italian Pinot Grigio), and more full-bodied and floral. I’m a sucker for big flavors, so I prefer the second style. This grape evokes such a fresh finish while maintaining strong flavors of honeysuckle through the front and mid palette. It reminds you of almost a oaked chardonnay – in a good way – but it’s not aged in oak, probably indicative of both the terrior and the varietal characteristics. Fantastic wine at a great price point.
Pair with: Chicken in a BBQ or cream sauce
Best Unique White: Austrian Pepper Gruner Veltliner, 2008
Grape(s): 100% Gruner Veltliner
When it comes to warm weather there is only one thing I crave…fish, and lots of it. Raw fish, grilled fish, smoked fish. You name the style, and I’ll eat it. Problem? I like my fish with a little kick. Weather it’s a cayenne rub on the grill or wasabi on my tuna I just need a little spice in my life…and spice is not often a friend to wine. Except in Austria (and Germany). If you are looking for a wine to subdue those spicy flavors in your life, this is it. Some lesser Gruners often have an overwhelming ripe green apple flavor to it. While that is on of the true characteristics to the wine, there should be more depth than just biting into a Granny Smith. This wine adds some pepper and lavender notes to the bright green acidity typically found.
Pair with: Tuna with a wasabi-mayo sauce, Mahi tacos blackened in a spicy rub
Best Rose: Starmont Merryvale Rose of Cabernet, 2009
From: Napa Valley, California
Grape(s): 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
I’m happy to report that in 2011, we as Americans accomplished two important feats in the wine world. 1. We were able to drink more wine than the rest of the world. 2. We FINALLY got rid of that horrible stereotype that all rose is White Zinfandel. As we see sales of rose grow, we are continually looking for innovative styles to entice our palette. New to use this year? A rose made of 100% Cabernet….mmm. The Starmont has flavors reminiscent of its big brother – plums, dark cherry, cocoa, cassis – but maintains the light and bright feel of the rose style. This is truly a red drinker’s rose.
Pair with: Rack of ribs drenched in your favorite sauce
Best Unique Red: Simonsig Pinotage, 2007
From: Stellenbosch, South Africa
Grape(s): Pinotage (cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut)
I’ll admit, until about one month ago I thought less of Pinotage…and people who drink Pinotage. I had never tasted one that could count as an ok beverage, let alone a good wine. Simonsig proved me wrong. Flavors of bright red fruit and spiciness on the finish. Would I drink it everyday? No, but it’s a hell of a wine with a grilled pizza.
Pair with: Grilled pizza preferably meat based with a sauce with a kick
Best Burger Wine: Tarima Monastrel, 2010
From: Jumilla, Spain
Grape(s): 100% Monastrell
Let’s face it, I own a wine store, I get to sample a lot of wines in a lot of price points. When I sit down at night for dinner, there are not many times when I grab a $10 bottle. I don’t think of myself as a snob, but more as an opportunist. Who knows when all the premium wine could disappear…I should drink it now! This is my exception. Soft and smooth, flavors of grape, licorice and a little strawberry this sucker has fooled multiple wine lovers in blind tastings. Drinks way above its price point.
Pair with: A nice, juicy burger