Discovering Torrontes: The Argentine Hidden Gem
The first Argentine wine I tried was in Mendoza, and it was not a Malbec; back then my tastes ran only to white wine. I tried a Torrontes and was hooked.
Torrontes is a grape variety grown almost exclusively in Argentina throughout the wine regions. There are three main varieties of grape Torrontés Riojano, Torrontés Sanjuanino and Torrontés Mendocino with three distinct tastes. However, the most popular is the Torrontés Riojano which is predominantly grown in the northern area of Salta. Cafayate in the Salta region is said to produce the best Torrontes as the grapes tend to thrive because of the high altitude, cold and windy conditions.
I´m no wine expert, I just like what I like, but people with far more knowledge than me have suggested that when you smell a good Torrontes it will be like a garden in bloom with hints of jasmine, orange blossom, roses and geraniums. On the palate (not the use of wine terminology) you will initially taste fruit salad with possibly honey. However, don´t be fooled into thinking this is a sweet wine, because this wine is pleasantly acidic. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as the liar. Initially sweet, but then refreshingly acidic.
If you´re sitting in a little wine bar on a warm afternoon in Buenos Aires, chatting with friends, it is entirely possible your bottle of perfectly chilled Torrontes will be finished before you even consider what you would pair it with in terms of food. However, I have it on good authority that Torrontes is “perfect as a refreshing start to a meal or paired with delicate flavours such as fish and shellfish.” It can also be paired with spicy and aromatic food such as Indian and Thai. I can report that I had a Torrontes with my Thai green curry and it was a great match.
Now that I´ve sold you on this tasty wine variety, you may be wondering where you can buy and it and how much it will set you back. In truth, because this is produced so abundantly in Argentina, you can buy a bottle of Torrontes at almost any wine bar, wine shop or even the supermarket and like any wine, the quality varies as does the price.
Don´t let people tell you what is a good wine and what is not, be your own judge. A good wine is one that you like the taste of, regardless of how much you paid for it. On my second day in Buenos Aires I was standing in wonder looking at all of the wines in the supermarket and eventually selected a wine for ARS $120 which converts to roughly USD 8. I´ll admit, I was not expecting great things but i was pleasantly surprised. I have since tried Torrontes for twice the price which was also really tasty.
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One of my favourite places to sample a wine, be it a fresh Torrontes or bold Malbec is in a little wine bar called Pain et Vino in Palermo Viejo, located on Gorriti 5132 you can choose your bottle from a large selection available. The prices are all reasonable for the excellent quality available. What is also great is that the server will typically give you a brief rundown on the wine and what to expect to taste. If you need another reason to try this wine bar, here it is… they bake their own fresh sourdough bread which is always provided with your wine. I can never go past the cheese platter either. Some wine experts have suggested that Torrontes is the perfect pair to the more well known Malbec. For now, Malbec reigns supreme, but don´t discount this national treasure.
Have you tried any of the local Torrontes? What did you think? Do you have a favorite?