So one could excuse the country if it rested on its culinary laurels.
But in the world of Argentine wine, there is much to discover and savor beyond Malbec. Among white varieties, for instance, Torrontes has been described as “the hottest thing to arrive from Argentina since the tango.”
It’s everything we love in a white wine: bright, refreshing and fruitful. That means it can be sipped solo on a hot summer day, or paired with everything from shellfish to what you may be eating today (and for several more days, depending on how much is left over): roasted turkey.
The emergence of Torrontes was the result of the genetic crossing of two varieties brought to the country in colonial times: the so-called “uva negra” and the Muscat of Alexandria or “uva de Italia.” Today, it is found across all the winemaking regions of the country, from Salta to Río Negro, and its flavor profile melds the best traits of Gewurztraminer and Viognier, with an engaging floral aroma.
Some say that Torrontes is to Argentina as Chardonnay is to California. Likewise, Malbec is to Argentina as Cabernet Sauvignon is to California.
And the good news for wine drinkers is that Torrontes and Malbec tend to be less expensive than their California counterparts.
Many believe that the “secret” behind the star varieties of Argentina is the fact that the country is home to many of the world’s highest-altitude vineyards, many sited nearly 5,000 feet above sea level. The abundant sunshine those vineyards receive helps produce grapes that are concentrated in flavor and wines that are deep and rich.
(Trivia note: There’s even one vineyard in Salta that sits 9,800 feet above sea level!)
For red wine fans, Argentine Malbec has a “little brother.” It’s called Bonarda, and is a little bit “milder” — just as Merlot is a bit “milder” than Cabernet Sauvignon. And let’s not forget the wonderful Pinot Noir wines now coming out of Patagonia.
Yes, there’s a lot to love about the wines of Argentina. Don’t let the unusual varietal or geographic names scare you off. Keep an open mind, give them a try, and you just may discover a new favorite… or two.