The best summer wine you aren’t drinking is probably torrontés, the white wine from South America.
Based upon its specs, Torrontés should be a fixture at picnics, pools and parties. The grape is a relative of the popular moscato but often shows more like a rich, flowery gewürztraminer. Low acidity makes it a more approachable, all-purpose wine.
The ambrosia of wine, torrontés smells and tastes good enough to wear. It’s often made in an off-dry or sweeter style, and people stay away. But I’ve found more serious torrontés produced that shatter that stereotype and show more versatility than its moscato parent. A growing number of torrontés are dry. With so much fruit character, they hardly need any sweetness.
Torrontés is thought to be a cross of the once-common mission grape and moscato variation known as muscat of Alexandria. Many years ago, European immigrants brought either the parents or the cross to South America.
What’s the problem with torrontés’ market position? Probably the name, which I mispronounced until an Argentine reminded me that the accent makes it tor-on-TESS, rather than reflective anglicization tor-ON-tace. If it were called “moscato of Mendoza,” it would probably be more popular. Look at the wine shelves, and you’ll see more chardonnay and sauvignon blanc from Argentina. Those takes on international varieties can be very good, but torrontés is Argentina’s unique gift to the wine world, one worth checking out if you are looking for lighter wine or a new experience.
Mi Terruño 2018 “Uvas” Mendoza Torrontés shows floral and grapefruit smells, a juicy texture, and heavy peach and guava character balanced with considerable tartness. This wine would be a great choice with fish. (Terruño is the Spanish word for terroir, the wine character unique to a place.) $12. ★★★★
For something even drier, try Zuccardi Series A 2018 Salta Torrontés. From dry, high-altitude windswept regions of Argentina, the ideal conditions for torrontés, this wine shows the ebullient floral notes and flavors of mandarin oranges and lemon with and a tight, tart finish. $10. ★★★★
GRADE: Exceptional ★★★★★, Above average ★★★★, Good ★★★, Below average ★★, Poor ★.