A relatively unknown wine from South America may be poised to become the next big wine talking point from the continent, at least as far as value whites are concerned. My guess is that most American wine drinkers have still not heard of torrontes, which is grown in Argentina and has remained in relative obscurity until now. That deserves to change. While the market is flooded with inexpensive sauvignon blancs from neighboring Chile, those wines seldom rise above their status as useful but undistinguished wash-down wines; you might as well turn to white Bordeaux or sauvignons from California, New Zealand, South Africa or any number of Loire Valley appellations. By contrast, you won’t find a torrontes on the shelves from anywhere but Argentina. Combine that with an exotic and often lovely flavor profile (one that is far more interesting than that of many sauvignons) and vinification without oak and you have a wine that could well become Argentina’s white malbec.
The possibility has not been lost on malbec producers. Catena wines of Mendoza, for example, has a winner in its 2009 Alamos Torrontes, a wine that shows the variety’s signature floral and herbal profile combined with lush tropical fruit notes and lime. The result is a striking $13 wine with unusual complexity, elegance and length. Served as an aperitif, it will immediately provoke a conversation and will match well with fish, including sushi, and with other lighter fare. Imported by Alamos, USA, Hayward, California.
Another malbec producer, Diseño, is about to enter the field with its 2010 Torrontes. While the wine won’t be released until next May or June, I tasted it the other night at a small press dinner in New York. It will be priced at $10.99 and is another superb value. It combines floral notes with dried apricot, lime and a bit of honey and cream and has an impressively long finish. Diseño is owned by Constellation Brands, the big international wine company, and was created five years ago, mainly to produce wines for the American market. The wines are made for Constellation by two Mendoza wineries. Based on a first tasting, the torrontes should do very well here. Imported by CWUS Imports, Madera, California.