Torrontes

Torrontés, a clone of Muscat, has become the white wine varietal brand on which the Argentines hope to hang their hat. This is as much to offset the rather one-dimensional swagger of the country's Malbec, as it is because of the 16,000 hectares of Torrontés that were planted in the early nineties, from Mendoza to la Rioja and Salta, farther north.

Curiously, Torrontés is the name of an indigenous Galician grape variety commonly found in the wines of Ribeiro. It is also planted in parts of Andalucia, yet has nothing to do with the eponymous Argentine variety despite the trade and history of migration between the regions.

To the Argentines' delight, Torrontés has gained considerable commercial traction. In certain Asian markets consumer perceptions are favourable as Torrontes marries well with regional cuisines. In western markets, meanwhile, the goodwill that is largely felt toward Argentine culture has seen the variety embraced in casual wine bars and restaurants.

However, while Torrontés' exuberant aromas of rose petal, spice and honey suckle are attractive and commercially viable as a result, its wines risk excessive bitterness if not vinified astutely, and oxidation if not consumed within a year or two of release.

Winemakers must avoid excessive pressing and any maceration of the skins with the juice, even in the harvest bins. As a result, many producers rely heavily on enzymes during cold settling, to assist with the removal of undesirable phenolics from the must. Oak handling is not recommended, while cool fermentation temperatures accentuate Torrontés' fruitiness.

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