Monday, December 15, 2008

This week's "Grape you need to know"

Everyone knows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. In fact, many folks don't stray from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay. But, did you know that there are hundreds, if not thousands of varietals of vitis vinifera, aka, wine grapes. Furthermore, SO many of them are really, REALLY good.

In other words, there's a lot of great stuff out there. In the spirit of internet wine superstar Gary Vaynerchuk's mantra to "try new wines", I thought I'd spotlight some grapes/regions/blends you need to get in your gullet, at least once.

Today's grape is Torrontés (click here for the Wikipedia page). Torrontés is pretty much the national white wine grape of Argentina. However, it only accounts for about 1.3% of all new vineyard plantings since 2000 in Argentina, a country dominated by red varietals such as Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Bonarda (I'm not linking to'll have to wait to learn about them here!).

Regardless, I've noticed a sharp increase in the number of bottles of Torrontés on the shelves at better wine stores (haven't seen it in the cooler at the Quiktrip yet). This grape produces a highly perfumed, medium-bodied white wine. It's really got one of the best noses (i.e. aromas) of any white wine I've ever tried. I almost always get the peaches, honeysuckle, and flowers that are often noted in better-known white varietals like Gewurztraminer and Viognier (once again, I'll spotlight these other favorites later). But, more than anything else, Torrontés to me has an amazing aroma of the canned, mandarin oranges you always loved as a kid. On the palette, the wine is usually surprisingly dry; after smelling it, you expect it to be sweet and fruity. Usually, there are subtle flavors of citrus and peaches (to me). However, unlike a citrusy Sauvignon Blanc, this wine tends to have a much fuller, silkier mouthfeel. It would pair very well with any sort of grilled fish, chinese food, or Krystal burgers, if in a pinch.

One of the best things about Torrontés is that it's still really affordable. While you might pay $30 for a decent California Chardonnay, or hundreds for a notable White Burgundy (aka French Chardonnay), Argentinian Torrontés will only set you back about $10-15. Some easy-to-find ones are Crios Susana Balbo (sorry, couldn't find a website) and Alamos.



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