Torrontes varieties have interesting pedigree

Steve Delaney
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This past weekend for new listings, the wine I eventually selected was the Trapiche Extravaganza White from Argentina ($18.99).

This wine is a blend of the torrontes and chardonnay grape varieties. (There is also a red version of the Extravaganza which is a blend of syrah, malbec and bonarda which I have not yet tried.)

Torrontes is an indigenous variety of Argentina derived from imports of European vines of the vitis vinifera species (the main quality wine-producing species now grown around the world which includes all our regular varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and riesling).

The name is applied to three related grapes: torrontes riojano (most expressive), torrontes sanjuanino, and torrontes mendocino (least interesting).

There are a number of uncommon varieties in Spain and Portugal which share the torrontes name, but none of them are related to this family of Argentinian vines.

The Argentinian grapevines are related because they are all derived from a crossing with the muscat of alexandria variety. (When two grape vines are crossed — the parents — the resulting child vine is composed of DNA from both parents. Each such crossing can produce related, but different offspring.)

The first two are derived from two independent crossings of the mission variety with muscat. The mission variety was brought over from Spain and used throughout Spanish America for making sacramental wines for religious services.

The partner in the crossing for the mendocino version is not yet identified. In a sense, the mendocino is a step-child of muscat in relation to the riojano and sanjuanino strains.

Muscat wines are quite aromatic and usually show abundant floral and fruit components in their bouquet. Torrontes takes after this trait of its parent in being abundantly aromatic of stone fruits and flowers.

To me, the Extravaganza had a bouquet very similar to the viognier variety. Viognier is often described as having stone fruit (by which is meant fruit such as peaches and apricots) aromas — somewhat sweet, tropical and rich.

In a strange twist, viognier is not related to muscat at all and instead is related to grapes of northern Italy, including nebbiolo.

I have found wines made only from torrontes to be a little on the light side. The addition of chardonnay to this blend seems mainly to have strengthened the body of the wine, further enhancing the resemblance to viognier which tends to make a full-bodied white wine.

As a full-bodied wine, I have enjoyed viognier with various shellfish, cheese, and flavourful Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine.

I had one experience where an old Condrieu was quite successful with a tenderloin roasted on the barbecue.

I think the Extravaganza also succeeds as a good food-pairing wine. We enjoyed ours with a roast chicken, savoury gravy and dressing.

If you are interested in something not only new, but also quite a bit different than less expressive white wines, then you might like to try this one. Score: 15/Very Good.

Steve Delaney is a member of the Opimian Society. Email him at sdelaney@nfld.com.

Organizations: Opimian Society

Geographic location: Spain, Argentina, Portugal Spanish America Northern Italy

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