The fragrant, Muscat-like Spanish variety Torrontés is common in Argentina, and may have been originally transported from Galicia in Spain.
Torrontés was once quite widely grown in the region of Galicia in northwest Spain, just above Portugal, and sold for high prices in Europe. After a few hundred years of obscurity, the grape came back in the spotlight in the 1980s as a part of the Rías Baixas blend with Albariño.
However, the Spanish and British adoration for Albariño soon meant that Torrontés was no longer required. Today it is only a minor variety in Spain, and has been relegated almost solely to the wines of Ribeira.
On the other side of the world, though, the grape variety is shining in Argentina. Arrived centuries ago, Torrontés was first noticed by the Argentineans for its distinctively aromatic character in the 1970s, when improved quality controls filtered into the wineries and vineyards.
Torrontés likes cool environments, so it performs best when grown at altitude, particularly in the high 1,700m vineyards of Cafayate, in northern Salta province. It has an intense fruity, floral perfume. In weight and mouthfeel it is like an Alsace wine, with crispness and richness at the same time. However, at higher yields, these qualities quickly vanished and the wine would turned bland and boring.
In the wineries, Torrontés responds well to cool fermentation to preserve its flavours. A little lees contact is acceptable, but most Argentinean winemakers prefer to let the authentic flavours of the grape show through without embellishment from yeast or oak.
Data sources: Torrontés grapes by Susan Keevil (for Decanter) and WSET Level 3 textbook
Translated by Nina Fan Feng / 冯帆
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