Warm weather has finally arrived, and with it the perennial search for something tasty to drink chilled. Argentina has the answer with torrontes, its indigenous white grape. Spicier than viognier, sweeter than pinot gris, lighter than chardonnay, it makes wonderfully refreshing wines that are perfect for summer days. We recently tasted a flight of torrontes from three different provinces and four different vintages, and all scored 88 points or above. Vendors think torrontes could take the wine market by storm the way malbec did, and we have to agree.
To call torrontes "indigenous" might be overstating the case just a little bit, as the grape is likely a distant descendant of muscat of Alexandria. But it is a hybrid that appeared spontaneously in South America and has not done so anywhere else. Today, it is identified almost exclusively with Argentina.
The top-rated torrontes in our latest tasting was Pascual Toso's 2010 edition (AV 90), but we'd highly recommend the wines we tasted from Recuerdo, MonteFalcon, Trumpeter, and Padrillos as well. Only the Padrillos comes from Salta, which was by far the most common source of torrontes on store shelves until Mendoza and La Rioja got in on the act. Made by Ernesto Catena, we think the wine is the most delicate and unusual of the five.
As a treat, we also tasted one of Ernesto's older wines, a 2003 Siesta en el Tahuantinsuyu Malbec, to see how it was doing a decade after the vintage. The answer is spectacular. This is a perfect time to drink this captivating 94-point wine, as it seems to have reached full maturity -- if you can find a bottle!