It’s Torrontes for the Win Print
Written by Bill Citara, BT Contributor   
June 2017

Red, white, and you: Agreeable wine for $12 or less

IVino-A_6-17f Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc had a baby, they’d probably call it Torrontes.

Torrontes is the iconic white wine grape of Argentina, and it shows off the two distinct (and divergent) aroma and flavor profiles of its better-known parents. Channeling Viognier, it offers some textural lushness and pleasingly floral character, with notes of honeysuckle and tropical fruit, ripe peaches and pears and apricots. Channeling Sauvignon Blanc, it displays a refreshing citrus acidity and underlying minerality.

It’s a combination that’s perfect for our South Florida climate and culinary culture, a wine that can stand up to assertive Latin and Caribbean flavors with the judicious acid backbone to complement our wealth of fresh-from-the-ocean seafood. If you like juicy, medium-bodied white wines, you’ll like its Viognier side; if you prefer your white wines crisp and dry, you’ll like its Sauvignon Blanc side.

And if you like white wines that let you keep a couple of dollars in your pocket when you go wine shopping, then you’ll really like Torrontes. You might have to look a little further than the shelves in your local supermarket, but the payoff is worth the effort.

It’s especially worth the effort if you latch onto the 2015 Susana Balbo Crios Torrontes. Balbo is the First Lady of the Argentine wine industry, being not only the country’s first female winemaker, but one of the most talented and successful in the New World. Her Torrontes is a seamlessly integrated wine, balancing flavors and aromas of honeysuckle and tropical and ripe stone fruit with brisk lemon-lime-grapefruit acidity and a hint of earthy minerality. It’s a stellar expression of varietal character.

Not quite as refined but still worth seeking out (and a fine value at $10) is the 2016 Alamos. “Juicy” is the word to describe this wine, from its lush floral-tropical aromas to its ripe peach and pear flavors and mouth-filling, creamy texture. There’s just enough citrus acidity to keep all that plush fruit from becoming cloying, but it still channels Torrontes’s Viognier-like nature.

We can quickly dispense with the 2016 La Vuelta. Ever drink a wine that smells and tastes like dirt? You know, the stuff grapes grow in. Well, if you want to find out, here’s the chance. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On the brighter side was the outlier of this month’s tasting, the 2016 Amalaya. Its 85 percent Torrontes is augmented by 15 percent Riesling, which serves to highlight both the wine’s ripe, floral characteristics and brisk lemon-lime acidity. For a refreshing summertime wine that’s crisp without being austere, you can’t do a whole lot better than this. Made from organically grown grapes, too.

For a great value, you can’t do a whole lot better than the 2016 Mendoza Station. For six bucks a bottle, you’re lucky to find a wine that doesn’t insult your taste buds, let alone one that’s actually enjoyable to drink. The Mendoza is more lean Sauvignon Blanc than plush Viognier, but some of the grape’s floral, tropical, stone fruit flavors shine through its soft citrus acidity.

Also leaning toward the Sauvignon Blanc side are a pair of 2016 vintages, the Santa Ana Classic Torrontes and the Phebus. Of the two, I prefer the Santa Ana, which to my palate better integrates the ripe and the crisp. Torrontes’s telltale floral-tropical notes are faint but recognizable, while its tangy, citrus aromas and flavors gain a bit of complexity with a mineral undercurrent

The Phebus is more straightforward, teasing with floral-honeysuckle scents that take time in the glass to become apparent on the palate. Even so, its flavor profile is more like that of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, which considering Torrontes’s imaginary parentage, is quite understandable.

• • •

On a personal note, after ten years and more than 100 columns, this will be my last Vino. Four decades in the journalism biz, three of them writing about food, wine, and restaurants, is enough. Now it’s time to change gears, to paint and play music, to kick back, sniff the roses, and enjoy a quiet life in the Keys.

Many thanks to Jim Mullin, one of the best and smartest editors I’ve ever had, for giving me this opportunity and many others over the years. And, of course, thanks to you, the BT’s loyal readers. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride as much as I have.


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