11/19/08 – taming Torrontés

By Jesse on November 17, 2008

The list of “easy-to-find varietals that have never had their own dedicated Young Winos tasting” is dwindling faster than the number of viable US automakers. It’s a race to the finish. I guess you could say that Torrontés is basically our Chrysler.

When several of the Winos drank it up at Skirball for the Argentina tasting a couple weeks ago, we were up to our ears in delicious Cab Sauv, Merlot, and Malbec — especially Malbec, the red grape that’s putting Argentina on the world map. But try as we might, we couldn’t possibly ignore the scores of delicious Argentine whites, which still tend to represent a great value on the international scene. And of all the white grapes to be found in that war-criminal haven they call a country, the most distinctive, by far, is Torrontés.

Those who haven’t had it are in for a treat, because in many ways, Torrontés is the ideal wine for the Young Wino sensibility. To begin with, it’s extremely affordable. Of the fifteen Torrontés wines being poured at the Argentine-fest, not one broke the $20 mark (and many were available for less than $12). Also, it’s typically a wine meant to be consumed young. Since most Winos have neither the space nor the self-discipline to store wine for long periods of time, the youthful and exuberant Torrontés makes for the perfect “now” wine. And finally, it’s endlessly diverse… I literally left that event feeling like no two Torrontés are alike.

(There’s the perfect extension of our “Chrysler” analogy. Didn’t it always seem like Chrysler was suffering from identity crisis? You’ve got the same company making the Dodge Viper and the PT Cruiser, the Chrysler Le Baron and the Plymouth Prowler, the Jeep Wrangler and the Dodge Neon. Who are you, goddamit?!! Torrontés is basically like that.)

But what is Torrontés like, specifically? Again, if our experience that day was any indicator, it varies tremendously. Not unlike Gewurztraminer, it tends to be floral in the nose, with palates and mouthfeels that range from crisp and lemony, to buoyant and rich, to playfully juicy and resplendent with tropical fruit. If my description seems a little manic and confusing, you can try reading this article, which gives some background info and lists a few recommended bottles. Or you can watch Gary Vaynerchuk taste Torrontés — here in 2006, before he became a caricature of himself, and here, more recently, in all his Vayniac glory, making up phrases like “soapy soap” and “going Costa Rica on your ass.” Or, better yet, you can come out to the tasting!

We’ll be meeting at Wino HQ in Sherman Oaks. The new RSVP system functions like this: if you want in, you click on this link and tell me so (don’t forget your full name, e-mail address, and a cute message conveying to me your intentions). Spots are assigned based on a complex algorithm which gives priority to long-term members but also reserves seats at each and every meeting for new people. If you’re denied entry due to a meeting exceeding capacity, don’t worry — you’ll be at the top of the list the next week. We try to keep everyone satisfied, and we think we do a pretty good job.

Once you’ve got your confirmation e-mail, go out and corral yourself one of these wild bottles of Torrontés — or simply pocket yourself a ten-spot. We’ll see you inquisitive children on Wednesday at 9pm.