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What our expert thought of The Apple Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree, Torrontés




about this wine About this wine
 
Just as Malbec is Argentina’s trademark black grape, Torrontés is its white.  Although originally from Bordeaux, Malbec is the variety everyone recognises as Argentinian because there’s a lot more of it planted: this is very much red wine country.  But Torrontés has a better claim because it was born here.
 
With very few exceptions, the wine grape varieties of the New World are the grape varieties of the Old World.  The grape vine was domesticated in Europe, and taken to the Americas, South Africa and the Antipodes by colonists just a couple of centuries ago.  They didn’t try to breed new varieties and there wasn’t much time for accidental crosses to occur naturally.
 
Torrontés is a rare exception.  I should say exceptions, because there are actually three Torrontéses in Argentina and they are all native.  This wine is made from the best one, Torrontés Riojano, which is also by far the most planted and the one you’ll find inside the bottle if the label says simply “Torrontés”.
 
It is a natural cross between two varieties that have been grown side by side in Argentina for centuries.  One parent is the “common black grape” which was brought to America by the conquistadores in 1520.  Called Mission in California (because missionaries planted it for communion wine), Pais in Chile, and Criolla Chica in Argentina, it is still widespread today but is so pale-skinned and acidic that it is mostly used for cheap rosés.
 
The other parent is Muscat of Alexandria, called locally Moscatel, an ancient, sweet and perfumed white variety originally from North Africa which thrives in hot climates.  Prized as a table grape for eating, its wines are usually very sweet and often fortified.
 
From these unlikely parents sprang Torrontés.  Like Muscat, it is highly aromatic but doesn’t overripen so readily and is almost always made as a dry wine.  Like Criolla Chica it retains good acidity in hot climates, at least by the standards of most white varieties.  It can still be flabby in Argentina’s heat, and, like most white wines here (and in Chile, South Africa and Australia), it is routinely acidified in the winery.
 
At least for my taste, that leaves too many Torrontés wines tasting as if someone has mixed lemon juice with floral handwash.  Tasting them can irresistably bring to mind bathroom cleaner.  The key to producing good Torrontés is to grow it at sufficiently high altitude for the cold nights to keep it naturally fresh.
 
This one comes from vineyards around a kilometre up in the Valle de Uco, the most exciting wine region in Argentina right now and one especially suited to whites.  Although technically part of the huge Mendoza province, it is considerably further south and higher than Maipo and Luján de Cuyo at Mendoza’s centre, and consequently enjoys colder nights and a longer, cooler ripening season.
 
Although the vineyards are in Valle de Uco, this wine was made and bottled by Matías Riccitelli at his winery in Luján de Cuyo surrounded by his black-grape vineyards, and so is labelled simply as Mendoza.  The grapes were hand-picked in the second week of March and transported to the winery in small 20kg trays so as not to damage them.  Once there they were crushed and the juice was given eight hours of skin contact to extract aromas.  Fermentation took place in stainless steel at a low 15°C, using selected yeasts.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
A fairly pale lemon colour, this doesn’t look like a wine that’s had eight hours of skin contact, but then Torrontés does have very pale skins.
 
The pronounced nose reveals the benefits of that skin contact, with intense floral scents of fresh-cut roses, backed by ripe lemony (even orangey) citrus.
 
On the palate it is dry and quite full-bodied, though the crisp, medium+ acidity and absence of oak keep it from being heavy.  Unusually for this grape it is really clean and refreshing, with a fine spicy citrus character.
 
Roses come through strongly on the afterpalate, along with interesting vegetal hints – rose leaves and stems as well as the flowers – which are particularly apparent on the long, warming finish.
 
Assessment
 
Finally a Torrontés that I really like!  It’s very well-integrated, rather than being a collision of acid and perfume.  There’s a lot more going on here than just rose petals: the spiciness, the lovely orangey citrus and that intriguing leafy quality.


Tasting notes

Appearance
clear pale-ish lemon
Nose

Intensity pronounced

Aromas floral (fresh-cut roses), ripe citrus (lemon, orange)

Development youthful
Palate

Sweetness dry

Acidity medium+

Body medium+

Intensity medium+

Flavours spicy citrus, then on afterpalate: floral (rose), vegetal (rose leaves & stems)
Finish

Length medium+

Flavours leafy, spicy, warming
Other notes
Unoaked. Unusually for Torrontés, very clean, refreshing & well-integrated.


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