Ring in new season with Torrontes wine

John H. Isacs
This week briefly saw higher temperatures and the promise of warmer days. Spring is here, and the lunar calendar confirms what our senses are telling us.
John H. Isacs

This week briefly saw higher temperatures and the promise of warmer days. Spring is here, and the lunar calendar confirms what our senses are telling us.

Jingzhe, which began on March 5, is the third of 24 solar terms in the Chinese lunar calendar that begins on the day when the sun is at the longitude of 345 degrees.

In the modern Gregorian calendar, Jingzhe begins in early March and ends a few weeks later.

The word jingzhe means the awakening of insects when, more specifically, the time of the year when warmer temperatures and thunderstorms wake up hibernating insects.

Just think of jingzhe as nature's wake-up call and instead of a cup of coffee to get you going I suggest a glass of floral wine.

In my still vivid memories of childhood in New England, the harbinger of spring was always the prevailing fresh scent of flowers.

Aromas are among the most enduring we have and quite frankly nothing so typifies spring as the scent of freshly blooming flowers.

The most spring-friendly wines mirror the sensations of the season; specifically, they are fresh, invigorating and floral. A host of popular wine styles boast these attributes including those made from aromatic varieties like Gewurztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Albarino.

But arguably the most floral of all wines is Torrontes.

Torrontes is believed to be a cross between the Mission grape from Galicia and the Muscat of Alexandria. Three genetic variations of Torrontes exist in Argentina; namely, Torrontes Riojano, Torrontes Sanjuanino and Torrontes Mendocino.

Torrontes Riojano is considered the most noble of the three with the best examples coming from the northern wine regions of Argentina.

Ring in new season with Torrontes wine
Ti Gong

The pristine high-altitude vineyards of Salta.


Nestled in the elevated step hills and plateaus of northern Argentina, Salta has the distinction of being the world's highest altitude major wine region. The two most famous sub-regions of Salta are Calchaqui Valley and Cafayate. These regions boarder the Andes Mountains and are home to the highest vineyards in the world ranging from 1,500 to over 3,000 meters above sea level.

Compared to the size and production of Mendoza and other Argentinian wine regions these northern outposts of winemaking are tiny, but they do have the distinction of making many of the country's most impressive white wines. These regions benefit from an extreme diurnal temperature range that is a key factor in making intense and balanced Torrontes wines.

In the summer growing season, daytime temperatures may exceed 38 degrees Celsius during the day and fall to as low as 10 degrees in the evening. Hot days with plentiful sunshine and cool evenings result in longer and slower ripening of the grapes, which in turn results in grapes that boast excellent phenolic ripeness, an abundance of acidity and exceptional aromatics. The final product is wines with greater freshness, concentration and complexity. High altitude Torrontes wines literally explode from the glass with pungent honeysuckle, rose, jasmine and other floral aromas.

Torrontes wines with fruit from lower elevations lack the aromatic intensity and acidity of their higher altitude counterparts, offering little more than obvious, flabby fruit qualities. Additional determinative factors in making high-quality Torrontes wines are low vineyard yields and careful temperature and other environmental controls during the wine making process. Torrontes grapes are prone to oxidation and need care and attention throughout the winemaking process.

One of my favorite Torrontes wines is produced by one of South America's most acclaimed wineries. Founded in 1861, Colome lays claim to being the oldest continuously working winery in Argentina. The Colome Estate Calchaqui Valley Torrontes is made with grapes from the La Brava vineyard that is perched 1,700 meters above sea level. The light-gold-colored wine features floral notes of roses, citrus fruit and a touch of spiciness while the palate is fresh and round with an elegant and persistent finish.

The Colome Group also owns the Amalaya Winery that produces two Torrontes wines that have 15 percent minority contributions of Riesling. The Amalaya Blanco de Corte Torrontes Riesling is lively with citrus, lemon peel and floral aromas and a fresh and clean palate with mineral nuances, while the Amalaya Blanco Dulce de Corte Torrontes Riesling is similarly fresh, floral and citrusy wine but with a good dose of sweetness. Both nicely exhibit the affinity of the Torrontes variety for blending.

The Inca Calchaqui Valley Torrontes is another Torrontes wine blend that features a dash of Chardonnay. The wine features a light golden yellow color with greenish hints and plentiful floral and citrus aromas and flavors. The minority Chardonnay contribution adds greater weight and texture to the wine while still retaining the fresh and aromatic qualities of the Torrontes grape.

Due to their relatively high acidity and alcohol content, typically between 13 and 14 percent, Torrontes wines are best served well-chilled, meaning no higher than 8 degrees Celsius. It is also a good idea to pick recent vintages. I invite all thirsty readers to join me in celebrating the awakening of the insects and the aromatic advent of spring with a glass of Torrontes wine.

Where to buy in Shanghai


909 Bldg 5, Lane 91, Jianguo Rd W., 139-1877-6679

Colome Calchaqui Valley Estate Torrontes

Amalaya Bianca de Corte Torrontes

Amalaya Bianca Dulce de Corte Torrontes


1222 Changle Rd, 5858-6689

Inca Calchaqui Valley Torrontes

Ring in new season with Torrontes wine

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