Celebrate SpringBy Natalie MacLean

Although Argentina made its reputation on Malbec, there are more than a hundred grapes planted in the country, many of them obscure and no longer grown in other wine regions.

The weird and the wonderful thrive in this museum of lost grapes: primitivo, bonarda, corvine, mouvedre and especially Torrontes—the most distinguished white wine of Argentina.Hermanos De Domingo Torrontes 2

5 Surprising Facts about Torrontes:

1. In the past, the country’s warm climate made producing fresh whites difficult. However, modern controlled-temperature fermentation and storage changed that for many white wines, and none more so than torrontes, a crisp, aromatic tumble of daisies, lychees and white peaches.

2. The wine has been described as “the new viognier.” Viognier’s home is France, especially in the northern Rhône Valley regions of Condrieu and Château-Grillet, where it’s the only white grape used and produces magnificently floral, voluptuous and expensive wines.

3. Torrontes, to me, seems closer aromatically to Alsatian gewürztraminer or Alexandrian muscat. It’s a peach-fest of pungently floral aromas that makes you expect sweetness, but it’s as bone-dry as chablis with a crisp, feisty finish.

It will thrill anyone looking for a value-priced condrieu since it has the same mouth-filling, voluptuous texture as that rare Rhône Valley white.

Crios Dominio Torrontes 24. The epicenter of torrontes is eight hundred and fifty miles north of Mendoza, in the Salta region near the Bolivian border. The light-skinned fruit was originally thought to be related to the Spanish grape of the same name.

5. However, Carole Meredith, professor emerita of the University of California at Davis, has proved it to be a cross between the muscat grape of Alexandria and a local grape called criolla chica. Torrontes supposedly arrived in Argentina in the hatbox of a Jesuit priest.

Torrontes has since gone international, gaining a cultish following in Thailand, where its Turkish Delight-tangerine essence suits the cuisine so well.

It also pairs wonderfully with many spicy dishes and curries, and also works well with salads, seafood, shellfish, vegetarian dishes and makes a terrific aperitif. Torrontes is best consumed young, within a year or two of the vintage.