Last week we wrote about the two great hopes for Argentina's next big grape: bonarda and torrontes. Alas, bonarda seemed unlikely to achieve malbec's quality and may even cannibalize its market; torrontes had tons of potential but hadn't yet found a foothold in the American market. But we think we have the solution.
It comes in a dark green frosted champagne bottle, and it's hard to find -- we picked ours up at Gnarly Vines in Brooklyn. Deseado, the sparkling torrontes from Familia Schroeder, is a sweet stunner. We first encountered it several years ago at the winery, along the flat stretch of highway in San Patricio del Chanar that comprises most of the province of Neuquen's wine industry. At the time, the wine was a curiosity. Unfortunately, it still is.
Unfortunately, because this wine has the chance to break open the American market. In recent years, prosecco and cava have successively become the cheap bubbles of choice for stateside consumers. There are always folks looking for some inexpensive alcoholic cheer for a celebration, a luxury brunch, or even just a hot day. Sparkling torrontes could be the next wine to fill this role.
Not only is it inexpensive, we think it's better than the others. Where they might be dismissed as champagne ripoffs, offering the thinnest of lip-puckering flavors, sparkling torrontes is something altogether different. It carries all the wonderful aromas of non-sparkling torrontes, and, in the Deseado at least, a little bit more sugar comes through the fermentation (which is via the Charmat process, the same kind used for prosecco). We could imagine a whole range of sparkling torrontes with different levels of alcohol and sugar.
The first problem is that almost no one except Familia Schroeder makes this wine. New Age is a popular choice, but its all-party-all-the-time branding doesn't have universal appeal. The second problem is the name; "sparkling torrontes" doesn't have the same ring as prosecco or cava.
We think Argentina's torrontes producers, spanning Patagonia, Cuyo, and Northern Argentina, should get together to produce and brand this wine. We'll even make a suggestion: "Cumelen" is the Mapuche word for happy -- which is what you'll be when you drink this wine. Salud!