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Monday, September 12, 2011

Santa Julia Torrontes: Like Drinking Fresh Flowers

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2011 at 10:10 AM

Argentina is working hard on marketing Malbec as its signature grape, but I prefer Torrontes.

For one thing, unlike Malbec, which was imported from France, Torrontes may actually be indigenous to Argentina. People used to believe it was the same as a grape of the same name in Spain's Galicia region, which is how it got the name. But DNA testing has shown they're not related, and in fact Torrontes has interesting parentage -- it appears to be a cross of the rather boring but hardy Mission grape once prominent in California with the floral, expressive Muscat of Alexandria.

In other words, it's like the offspring of an accountant and a flamboyant stage actress.

A good Torrontes is very floral, and Santa Julia Mendoza Torrontes 2010 doesn't disappoint. Floral aromas leap from the glass, along with some ripe apple; it's a pleasure just to smell it.

On the palate, it's more restrained, with that accountant background. The Zuccardi family who make the wine told me they add acid to the wine to keep it fresh and lively. This is kind of a no-no for extreme wine geeks, so I found myself charmed by their honesty, and besides, I'd rather have a lively wine than a flabby one.

Because it is so aromatic, it stands up well to fish dishes that have something going on atop them. We had it with pan-fried cod topped with an olive tapenade. You might also try it with chicken cooked with floral herbs like rosemary or thyme.

The bottle claims that the wine is sustainable, but in the wine world that's such a broadly defined term that I generally ignore it. However, the Zuccardi family seems very genuine and I find their claims of social and environmental responsibility believable.

The clan established itself in the wine business because the patriarch is an engineer who developed the irrigation system that allowed so many of his neighbors to grow wine grapes in the Mendoza region, an arid, high-altitude desert. It's possible that without the Zuccardis, the Mendoza wines we love today wouldn't exist.

Heavy thoughts for a light, pretty wine. It costs $10 at San Francisco Wine Trading Company. Whole Foods also carries some Santa Julia wines, though I'm not sure which if any local stores have this one. You could call and ask; that stimulates demand, and a family that makes a good wine this cheaply should be rewarded.

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W. Blake Gray


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