Torrontes, a truly native variety
It is produced only in Argentina and has an incomparable flavor. It is found across all the winemaking regions of the country, from Salta to Río Negro, and is becoming established as an icon among Argentine white wines.
There are three kinds of Torrontés in Argentina: Torrontés from Mendoza and from San Juan are better suited for fresh consumption, while Torrontés Riojano is more extensively grown and expresses the best qualities for the elaboration of very fruity yet dry premium wines. The latter has earned numerous international awards.
Cafayate Valley, in Salta, to the far north of the country, is now building a strong international reputation due to the growth of this variety. This region enjoys a special microclimate. Vineyards grow at 9,840 feet above sea level, with very scarce rainfall, and these conditions allow for an exceptional development of grapevines. Delicious and fruity, the wines of Cafayate have a strong personality and linger in the mouth.
The emergence of Torrontés, today's emblematic Argentine white wine variety, was the result of the genetic crossing of two varieties brought to the country in colonial times: the so-called “uva negra” and Muscat of Alexandria or “uva de Italia,” which might be the ancestors of Torrontés (Agüero 2003). The identification of this new variety was a long, complex process fraught with difficulties. Torrontés initially grew among other varieties, without producers noticing it was a different stock.
When grape growers found it among other varieties in Cuyo, they had no idea how to classify it. From the theoretical point of view, this variety had no name or ampelographic description. It simply did not exist.
The name “Torrontés” started to be used in Argentina by the middle of the 19th century. The oldest available record we have found is a study by Damián Hudson dating back to the 1860's.
According to the sources studied up to now, it may be said that Torrontés originated in Mendoza, apparently under the leadership of the Jesuits. They introduced the growth of uva de Italia in the vineyard of the School of Our Lady of Good Voyage, and from there, they spread across the region. The Jesuits remained interested in this variety throughout the 18th century and recommended its growth, as reflected in writings by an anonymous member of the expelled Jesuit Order dating back to the end of that century. Under these conditions, Muscat of Alexandria spread to most of the winemaking regions of Chile and Argentina, but Mendoza remained its main center of development. Thus, its genetic crossing with uva negramay have taken place anywhere in this region, but most probably in Mendoza, where the chances were greater. In addition, the oldest record mentioning the existence of Torrontés to date was also found in Mendoza.
Out of the three varieties of Torrontés (Mendocino, Sanjuanino and Riojano), the main one is Riojano, as it its the only criolla grape originated in the Americas that has great oenological value and has earned increasing commercial importance and market recognition, ranking second in white wine exports from Argentina.
Download The History of Torrontés by historian Pablo Lacoste, PhD.
What to Look for in Torrontés
Torrontés is a light yellow wine that occasionally has golden and green hues. Its aroma is reminiscent of roses, jasmine, and geraniums. In the mouth it is pure fruit salad, sometimes with touches of honey or oregano. Its aromas suggest a sweet wine but its taste reveals a refreshing acidity.
What to Pair with Torrontés
Torrontés is perfect as a refreshing start to a meal or paired with delicate flavors such as fish and shellfish. Spicy and aromatic Indian, Chinese and Thai cuisine also go very well with this variety.