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The Torrontés Grape


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About Torrontés

(Synonyms: Torrontés Riojano: Malvasia, Torrontel, Torrontel Riojano; Torrontés Sanjuanino: Moscatel Romano, Moscatel Sanjuanino Torrontel; Torrontés Mendocino: Chichera, Loca Blanca, Palet, Torrontel, Uva Chichera, Torrontés Mendozino.)

Background

Map showing Torrontes-growing regions of Argentina

Torrontés is a white-wine grape originating in South America, probably in its current home of Argentina. Actually, though, Torrontés (like Muscat, to which it seems to be related) is not a single grape type, but a small family of closely related grapes, three in number: Torrontés Riojano, Torrontés Sanjuanino, and Torrontés Mendocino. It is hard to say for sure, but chances are that Torrontés wines from the northern provinces of Argentina—La Rioja and Salta—will be the preferred Riojano, while wines from San Juan and the Mendoza area are often one of the other two types. (Also, do beware bottlings of "Torontes" from elsewhere than Argentina, because they are often some other grape altogether that happens to locally be called "Torrontes").

There is a lot of published misinformation about Torrontés, the commonest being marked by an assertion that it originated in Spain; the grapes grown in Spain under that name are totally unrelated to true Argentine Torrontés.

Torrontés is today one of the defining wines of Argentina, indeed one of the defining whites of the South American continent (some is also now made in Chile, though of which kind of Torrontés is less clear). Modern bottlings of Torrontés cover quite a spectrum of quality, from bland plonk to exciting, aromatic and distinctively flavored gems. DNA analysis suggests that one of the parents of Torrontés is Muscat of Alexandria, and better Torrontés wines display some of the characteristic rich aromas and flavors of Muscat wines.

Well-made Torrontés is a medium-bodied wine of some crispness from moderate acidity, and with an assertive nose and palate of stone fruit (typically apricot and peach) with definite overtones of spice and flowers (as in Muscats). It is a wine meant to be drunk while quite young and fresh, and specimens more than a year old should be treated with caution. It is perhaps not a great wine, but it can be very pleasing and refreshing, with an identity all its own. Regrettably, many bottlings trade on the current almost fad popularity of the wines and are sadly mediocre and uninteresting.

Factoid: Torrontés is 10% of the white-grape plantings in Argentina, but 20% of its white-wine sales.


Some Descriptions of Torrontés Wines


Some Torrontés to Try

(About this list.)

There are many, many bottlings of Torrontés widely available, and all at reasonable prices; even limiting to bottlings recommended by multiple sources, there are many. Here are some. Warning! Always take careful note of the vintage year of any Torrontés you are considering buying; expert advice consensus is not over a year or at most two old. We have seen absurdly cheap offerings that turn out to be for five-year-old bottles. Caveat emptor!

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Loscano "Private Reserve" Torrontés
(Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Tropical and citrus fruit aromas come with controlled skin-based bitterness. This has a full oily texture and flavors of lemon-lime and white pineapple. Fresh acidity on the finish keeps this clean and in good shape. Drink right away. 89 points.

The aromatics on this wine were absolutely beautiful. Aromas of pineapples, peaches and flowers leapt from the glass. I very much enjoyed just simply smelling this wine throughout the evening. I didn't even need to put my nose in the glass to get a whiff of the wine; it was that expressive. On the palate, the wine showed more citrus, ginger and spice flavors. There was a nice creamy mouthfeel to the wine, probably because it was barrel aged for three months on the lees. Taken together, the aromas and the flavors combine to deliver a really great wine. And for the price, that stereotypical Argentine value is clearly abounds with this wine. I highly recommend it.

A perfumed nose of bright peach and lemon in exquisite balance, forceful and focused, enfolded in stony minerality. On the palate it opens round and fruity with luscious spice notes, medium weight and a silky, mouth coating texture arrested by tart acidity that drives the medium length, bitter-inflected finish. This has the characteristic glycerol mouth feel and soapy quality that is common in Torrontes but none of that is overwhelming. Fresh and aromatic but the weight gives it a serious aspect…There is no hint of woodiness but the barrel aging enhances the texture…If you haven’t tried Torrontes this is a good example at a good price. Highly recommended. 88 points.

♣ San Franciso International Wine Competition 2016: Best Torrontés, Double Gold Medal. San Diego International Wine & Spirits Challenge 2017: Best Torrontés.

On the nose this wine displays a beautiful and tropical fruit aroma profile consisting of lychee nut, blueberry guts, star acacia, orange blossom, and white chocolate. On the palate the wine is crisp and refreshing and shows flavors of kumquat, meyer lemon, edible flowers, and mineral. The acidity is nice and zesty and the wine is as refreshing as could possibly be expected. 90 points.



Alta Vista "Premium" Torrontés
(Salta, Argentina.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The Torrontes that comes from these vineyards is considered some of the best in the world. After a brief maceration on the skins, the Premium Torrontes is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. There is no malolactic fermentation or oak aging. That allows the wine to develop rich and concentrated flavors with a very clean fruit expression. Straw yellow wine with delicate floral, lime and honey aromas. Not that it’s sweet. This really is a white wine unlike anything you had before – fruity with perfect balance of crispy acidity. On the palate you can taste notes of peaches, lemon and honey. This is a lot of complex flavor for around 10 dollars. Nicely done! Beautiful for sipping on its own or paired with a seafood.

The 2008 Alta Vista Premium Torrontes is much drier than many other Torrontes that you can find out there. If you want a sweeter and fruitier Torrontes, this is not for you if you'd like a more complex Torrontes and the chance to experience this varietal in a different light, then this wine is worth looking for. . . The 2008 Alta Vista Premium Torrontes is a bright golden-yellow color with hints of green. The aromas of the 2008 Alta Vista Premium Torrontes are fairly subtle and consist of honeysuckle and fresh fruit. The flavors of the 2008 Alta Vista Premium Torrontes are not as fruity as the aromas and there can be a sharp aftertaste, perhaps due to the strong alcohol content. This Torrontes is rather dry, medium-bodied, and has a marked acidity. It's less dry with food, but not by a lot.

International Wine Cellar (January/February 2011), 88 points.

Wine Advocate (date unknown), 90 Points.

The 2011 Alta Vista Premium Torrontes was harvested via three passes through the vineyard in Cafayate and such exacting standards show in this great wine. It has a boisterous, quasi-Gewurztraminer bouquet of lemon zest, barley sugar and apricot that leaps out of the glass. The palate is well-balanced with peach and elderflower on the entry, and expresses the varietal with some style. This is an effervescent, somehow life-affirming white wine.

Very pale yellow. Sexy, ripe aromas of white peach and spices. Supple, ripe and sweet, with white peach and spice flavors perked up by yellow grapefruit and lemon peel. Finishes nicely dry, with good texture and lift. Very well made.

The example from Alta Vista offers delicate aromas of white flowers and curry powder followed by a tactile, saline mouth feel, with hints of gingery spices and bright acidity giving definition to its subtle tropical fruit flavors. The finish is sappy, elegant and persistent. This smooth torrontés has the acidity and pungent character to work well with spicier Asian, Indian or Mexican dishes.

Seducing flowery nose with exotic fruit hints. Fresh and delicate palate with white pepper and jasmine notes. Silky long finish. 4/5 *

With floral and slightly citrus notes, this is a more mineral and savory example of Torrontes which goes well with food. The medium mouth has good body for the variety and an unctuous finish but with clean acidity. It’s a great Torrontes but I’m not sure it warrants the extra money as a step above its cheaper sister – their Torrontes Classico at half the price.

Bright, fresh and aromatic; juicy and lively; aromatic, dry and racy. 89 points.



Michel Torino "El Esteco 'Don David'" Reserve Torrontés
(Cafayate - Calchaqui Valley, Argentina.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

Very pale bright yellow. Lemon, licorice, fresh herbs and ginger on the nose. Densely packed and chewy with extract, showing lovely intensity and floral lift to its flavors of grapefruit pith, herbs and spices. Some unabsorbed CO2 gives it real punch. Classic ripe, dry torrontes with a firm, brisk, very persistent back end. 90 points. [International Wine Cellar]

Aromas of wild flowers, honey, lychee and oily citrus fruits announce a minerally palate with steely yet tropical flavors of citrus and lychee. This is better cut than most, with racy acidity that keeps things running on the finish. Drink now. 89 points.

It is beautifully floral, has notes of dried apricots and pears, is light-bodied with only a slight acidity, and a sweet finish…I highly recommend it!

[T]he exuberant floral and tropical fruit notes on the nose belie a crisp, dry palate. A fuller body comes from a minimum amount of oak aging, but it doesn’t interfere with the fruit.

Smooth, spicy nose; silky, bright and softly spicy; complex and elegant; long and fresh. 90 points.

Bright, very pale straw colour with slight green hues. The nose is elegant and very finely concentrated with tightly bound aromas of exotic florals, rose-petals, spice and nuts, along with an integrated sulphide thread adding interest. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, this is a slender wine in proportion with linear flavours of florals, apricots, exotic fruits and musk. The mouthfeel has slippery acidity and a fine, textured phenolic line in good balance, providing drive. The palate is carried to a firm-textured, crisp and dry finish with good length. This is a slender and elegantly proportioned Torrontes with textbook exotic fruit aromas and flavours. 16.5/20.



Bodega Colomé Torrontés
(Salta, Argentina.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine has two CellarTracker review pages:
     » first page; and
     » second page.
      (The winery's own site shows no distinct "Estate" version of their Torrontés.)
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

This wine is a gorgeous pale straw color in the glass, with aromas of fresh flowers with citrus tones. On the palate there are some floral notes with nectarine and bright fresh citrus flavors, especially grapefruit. There is good acidity, but it is a rou nd, balanced wine that has a long, pleasant aftertaste. It tastes best when slightly chilled. I took it out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving, and it was fine. This is a complex and graceful, elegant wine.

The 2010 Colomé Torrontés has pleasing and fresh aromas of citrus, honey, and peach. The wine tastes of peach, lime, even some guava, papaya or other tropical fruits and has a nice acidity. The finish is outstanding...the flavor intensifies and then lingers nicely for a long time. This is also a wine that will pair with lots of different foods. It was a great match for the grilled chicken with mint, red onion, and lemon and rosemary dijon mustard potatoes we ate with it. Two thumbs up for this bottle. Taste Rating: 8; Cost Rating: 7; Overall Rating: 7.8. Recommended Buy.

International Wine Cellar (March/April 2013), 88 points

Wine Advocate (October 2012), 87 points

Bright, pale yellow. Very pure, perfumed aromas of ginger, licorice, rose petal and brown spices. Concentrated, supple and ripe, with impressive sappy intensity to the flavors of spices and fresh herbs. Builds nicely on the back half, finishing with lovely saline persistence and chewy grip.

Very pale yellow. Subtly spicy aromas of lemon and grapefruit peel, flowers and mint. Juicy, dry and firm-edged, with spice and floral notes and a bit of unabsorbed CO2 contributing cut and lift. Ultimately a wine of modest material and length for this label. The clean finish features lingering, slightly tart citrus, mint and spice notes.

Beautifully aromatic: grapey, perfumed and a bit limey. The palate has a nice rich texture with sweet grapey fruit and a hint of lychee. Lovely stuff. 90/100

Elegant and aromatic, with a chalky edge to the Meyer Lemon, tangerine and floral notes.

This fresh, youthful white wine is dry but very fruity for a torrontes, a varietal in which mineral flavors often prevail. Savvy wine drinkers have realized by now that torrontes is a very appealing varietal, and clearly Argentina's best white grape. This version offers intense, electric flavors of lime, grapefruit, orange and tropical fruit — with bracing acidity and a long, clean finish. It's best enjoyed in its exuberant youth.

It has a very similar bouquet to the 2011, although the palate is much fresher and vibrant with subtle Conference pear and bruised apple notes towards the finish. It is simple, but refreshing.

Grown in Cafayate at 5,600 feet, this has all the floral aspects of torrontes, along with a rich sweetness and a strict structure, which will soften in the company of fish curry.
Golden colour. Big and spicy nose with ripe tropical fruits, spice and flowers. Medium bodied almost fat dry taste of ripe tropical fruits. Great concentration and freshness even though it is quite aromatic. Serious food wine!

The Colome 2010 version of Torrontes shows honeysuckle, jasmine and orange zest on the nose, more perfumed than even Viognier. On the palate, it has apricot, guava, grapefruit, honeycomb, kefir (sour) lime leaf and a sense of brewed tea, like orange pekoe. It sure delivers flavor wise, with orange marmalade closing out the sustained finish. It's quite refreshing for the sweltering summer months ahead.



Dominio del Plata "Crios de Susana Balbo" Torrontés
(Cafayate - Calchaqui Valley, Arhentina.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The 2011 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes is an affordable, delicious Torrontes wine. Crios is well balanced with a crisp finish. The acidity structure is similar to that of Sauvignon Blanc, one of the main reasons it is food friendly. It is a dry white wine with bright floral notes. I love the peach, melon, tropical fruit and honeysuckle in this wine.

The Crios Torrontés 2008 has the body and complexity of a sweet wine but is decidedly dry. It is quite aromatic with hints of peach, pear, flowers and citrus fruit. On the palate, it has a beautiful structure and acidity along with fruit flavors that keep you coming back for another sip, and plenty of body for a wine that shows such delicate aromas and flavors.

International Wine Cellar (January 2012), 90 points.

Wine Advocate (December 2007), 90 points.

The 2007 Torrontes is about as good as this varietal gets. Super fragrant, smelling of a spring flower garden, honey, and exotic spices, from the nose one expects the wine to be sweet. On the palate, however, it is dry with a creamy texture, intense flavors, excellent acidity, and a lengthy finish. It is an ideal alternative for rich courses normally calling for Chardonnay. Drink it over the next 12-18 months. Although Susana Balbos’s Crios offerings are the declassified lots from her more expensive "signature" wines, they need make no apologies. They rank among the best values from my Argentina wine tastings. All of the Crios wines are outstanding values.

Pale yellow. Sexy, slightly exotic aromas of wild herbs, flowers, licorice, mint and spices. Juicy, saline and dry, with a subtly tactile mouth feel to the flavors of lemon verbena, lavender and botanical herbs. There's an enticing dusty impression of soil here but plenty of sweet citrus fruits too. Savory and serious but there's nothing austere about it. An outstanding example of Argentina's distinctive torrontes, which makes a perfect aperitif.

If in doubt, buy a Salta Torrontés; it’s the most reliable region for the grape. The Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés has made a lot of waves, and its generally regarded as one of the first to really give the grape a serious identity. While the “Crios” brand is “second-label” in the Balbo portfolio, there’s nothing second fiddle about the wine itself; it’s a matter of pricing, not quality.

The 2010 Crios de Susana Balbo was fragrant with melon and citrus, and well balanced. . . Well balanced with lingering flavors of mandarin and honeydew.

The 2012 Crios Torrontés begins with wonderful and complex aromas of tangerine and lime along with hints of mint, sea salt, white pepper and flowers. The wine tastes excellent with a really pleasant texture. The fruit turns more tropical and zesty in the mouth and offers intense flavors with a nice bit of white pepper. This is a very easy to drink wine that would be great with seafood or even some grilled meats, believe it or not. Taste Rating: 7; Cost Rating: 8; Overall Rating: 7.3. Recommended Buy.

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.

The Crios Torrontes has aromas of sweet, white flowers, pears and dried apricots. There is also a lot of apricot on the palate, followed by the softest finish that I’ve had in a Torrontes: very minimal acidity, and a touch of that green, Torrontes finish. I found that the Crios doesn’t pack the “punch” that other Argentine Torrontes have, which could be a good or a bad thing, depending on one’s tastes. Its mildness will allow the wine to pair well with many dishes; on the other hand, if you are looking for a stronger, more acidic and more citrus-heavy wine, I would continue searching. That being said, this is the perfect “starter wine” if you have not tried a Torrontes: a lovely intro into the grape and its citrus flavors and light body.

[Susana] Balbo’s more affordable Crios line consistently delivers outstanding quality for the price. Her Torrontes is a shining star in this collection. Here, the grape’s distinctive aroma is present, but its elegant and not overbearing. White peach, honey and tropical fruit flavors fill your mouth followed by a hint of spice. The palate is softer and rounder than in past years (presumably from going through slightly more malo), but a refreshing seam of acidity keeps this wine completely in balance.

A water-white, lemon colored wine with bright aromatics of key lime, grapefruit, orange blossom and hints of rose. The wine is light-bodied, yet ripe and intense with stone and citrus fruits along with hints of white pear and flowers on the lush, yet crisp palate. More like the 06 than the 07, this wine needs a bit more time to fully unify its flavors. Was better the second day as the lime and flowers were more integrated into the wine and the stone fruit flavors more prevalent. Still a lovely, complex wine with the acidity keeping the ripeness in balance. Even the Man really liked it, which is rare for a white wine. Will definitely be getting another bottle.



Familia Zuccardi "Serie A" Torrontés
(Salta, Argentina.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine's CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.


Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The Torrontes is a brilliant white wine with tonalities of pears and citrus that is grown at over 5,000 feet above sea level. The pairing with the delicious calamari salad was perfect to show off the complexity this white wine offers.

Yellow in color. Butter notes, peach, round, mouth watering finish. The favorite of the White flight.

Wine Advocate (October 2012), 90 points.

The 2011 Zuccardi Serie A Torrontes from Cafayate in Salta, is 50% direct pressed and sees no oak. It has a fresh grapefruit, nectarine and passion fruit bouquet that is crisp and well-defined. The palate is vibrant on the entry, with a keen thread of acidity and great focus and poise on the white peach-tinged finish. This is one of the best Torrontes wines I have found.

[Google-translated from Spanish:] Zuccardi Serie A Torrontes 2009 is a wine of intense yellowish-green color, very fragrant and possesses a unique nose, with notes of white flowers such as roses and orange blossoms, and delicate hints of citrus and ripe white fruits. The palate is well structured with vibrant acidity and very aromatic with a delicate finish.

Long on green fields of white flowers, and on displays of soulful, energetic character.

[Google-translated from Portugese:] Presented in glass straw yellow color with greenish reflections. Tearful (13.4% alcohol) . Very aromatic, with intense floral top, opening to white lychee and other fruits. Marked acidity with a long finish and some astringency. Dry mouth, no bitter notes. Appeared notes reminding passion. Wine very well done, refescante, with good aromatic complexity and cost-benefit ratio that does not quite excited, but it is not expensive for what it offers.

Among the wines we tasted at Zuccardi, the Zuccardi Serie A Torrontés 2009 stood out for its floral nose and lemon notes on the palate.

[Google-translated from Portugese:] Aroma: As expected of a Torrontés, really brought beyond the fruity, a very tasty and surprising floral. In fruity, what most caught my attention were ripe yellow fruit, maybe a melon and a subtle touch of citrus. Even after half an hour in the glass smell remained very persistent. Taste: Balanced, acidity and very aromatic in the right spot, filling the mouth flavors. In the mouth greater emphasis to the yellow fruit.



For a Splurge

It's only a tad better than what's listed above, but it only costs a tad more. It's the Susana Balbo "Signature" Barrel Fermented Torrontés.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.

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