Thursday, April 7, 2011
Torrontés Wine: 24 Hours at its Source in Cafayate, Argentina (Part 2)
Part Two: (Part One here)
Wine for breakfast is not to our liking. So, next morning we drove south through the desert, which lies 5,300 feet above sea level, to the Quilmes ruins. There thousands of people thrived for generations before fighting the Incas and then the Spanish. It's worth the trip for the history lesson (in Spanish) on how they lived in Ciudad Segrada de los Gilmes. Views are great, too.
If you prefer your view with a light lunch and wine, then stop at Bodega Jose Mounier. Nestled into the curved and cozy hillside, the winery overlooks, hectares of vines in the foreground and a grand view across the Calchaquí Valley. Mounier had a different approach to Torrontés, oaking 10% of the current vintage. The setting is gorgeous, and the very good wines are not for export, making Mounier a must stop.
Back in town, Bodega Nanni (established in 1897) represents the strong Italian lineage in Argentina. Nanni's vineyards are nearer the Quebrada de los Conchas, where the grapes endure 14 hours of wind per day plus the cool nights, making pesticides unnecessary. Nanni makes only organic wine. Even for their red wines, Nanni eschews sulfites. Nanni’s Torrontés contained 13.5% alcohol with no residual sugar, they claim. Still, it was a bit sweet for me. On the other hand, for a desert wine, Nanni's late-harvest Torrontés was delicious.
Although this post focuses on Torrontés, Cafayate wineries produce several other varieties. Tannat deserves mention. Often, winemakers mix with Tannat grapes for the tannins, color and alcohol. I'd been told that Tannat is like drinking blood: only good with the fattiest of steak; just the medicine one needs to keep the arteries unclogged. So, I was surprised that the Tannat taste offered by Nanni was very drinkable. True to the reputation, it had 15% alcohol and a deep red color.
Back to Torrontés. The proprietor of a wine shop told me that the Torrontés from La Rioja region differs from that of Cafayate. If your taste buds demand a less robust Torrontés without that final hint of bitterness, then you need the more smooth Torrontés, squeezed from grapes from the La Rioja region, which lies south of Cafayate and north of Mendoza. To test his advice, we drank a bottle from Lorca, a Mendoza winery using La Rioja grapes. I'd agree it was less muscular and more even. It possessed the floral and citrus notes we expect from Torrontés, the sweetness was about average, and I did not taste any bitter finish.
Twenty-four hours is not enough time for a visit to Cafayate, Argentina, the Torrontés capital of the mundo, Winemakers’ expressions of Torrontés vary from excellent to not so great. However, if you travel all the way to Cafayate, allocate more time to enjoy the other wineries and the other wines. Although I now appreciate and will enjoy Torrontés, I left Argentina as a great fan of their Malbecs, but that’s another story.
[Visit March 30-31, 2011]