As we begin to put the wrap on another sizzling summer, I find myself being drawn towards Argentine Torrontes, a white wine that's great all year round, but especially well-equipped for summer sipping.
The Torrontes grape grows like weeds throughout Argentina, and there are three different varieties: Sanjuanino, Mendocino, and Riojano. Since most of the Torrontes sold here is made from the Riojano variety, we'll focus on that. It's a grape that produces very aromatic wines - quite floral, with Gewürztraminer and Muscat-like aromas. If you like the floral qualities of Viognier, you'll probably also enjoy Torrontes.
Torrontes wines are capable of being bone dry, but many I've tasted are off-dry, even slightly sweet, which make them a good choice for an aperitif, or just for sipping in the hammock. So, Torrontes can range from light and crisp, like Pinot Grigio, to rich and rounded, like big California Chards. In finding versions of Torrontes that are keepers, the main thing I look for - regardless of the wine style - is acidity. This is what ties the best Torrontes together, whether they be light and crisp or big and bold. And, while most Torrontes producers age their wine in steel tanks, others are experimenting with oak barrels, the latter giving the wines more of a Chardonnay-like body and roundness. I suggest lining up an assortment of different Torrontes from various wineries and discovering which you like the best.
Here is one of my current favorites. It's a perfect white wine for late-summer sipping.
Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes
($14.99) is surprisingly dry, given its Viognier-like floral notes of pears and peaches. It's a crisp, delicate wine that pairs well with smoked salmon or even smoked meats. I think this delectable Torrontes would be a great partner for an early-fall/late-summer barbecue.