There are few white grapes in Argentina called Torrontés and a different indigenous variety in Galicia in northwest Spain used to make white wines in the Ribeiro DO region. In Spain, the variety is sometimes found around Cordoba. In the Canary Islands, the name Torrontés refers to a different grape variety, Madeira's Terrantez.
The best known examples of this grape are the three varieties of Torrontés in Argentina: Torrontés Riojano, Torrontés Sanjuanino and Torrontés Mendocino. With 8,100 hectares, or 20,000 acres, planted, Torrontés Riojano is Argentina's most-planted white wine variety. Despite much emigration from Galicia to Argentina, no definitive connection between Spanish and Argentine Torrontés had been established before DNA profiling at UC Davis suggested that Torrontés Riojano and Torrontés Sanjuanino are each a hybrid of Muscat of Alexandria and Criolla Chica, called Mission in California. As a result of this profiling, Torrontés Mendocino is also thought to be an offshoot of Muscat of Alexandria; the other parent remains unknown.
Torrontés is the white grape with the greatest potential in Argentina, able to produce, fresh, fragrant, expressive wines, although it can also show too much alcohol, be quite short on the palate and show bitterness when not carefully grown. Torrontés can produce wines that are high in acidity, and with aromas similar to Muscat, and it is also used for blending. The variety seems particularly well adapted to Argentina’s dry growing conditions, especially the high, sandy vineyards in the Cafayate region where altitudes of over 1,600 meters, or 5,250 feet, underline the naturally high acidity of Torrontés and its expressive flavors are prominent.
Torrontés Riojano, known as Torontel in Chile, is the most common Argentine subvariety and takes its name from Argentina’s northern province of La Rioja, where it is the most widely planted variety. Torrontés Sanjuanino, called Moscatel de Austria in Chile, is common in Argentina’s province of San Juan. Less aromatic, with bigger berries and more compact clusters, this grape is less widely planted. There is also the rare Torrontés Mendocino, also known as Torontés Mendozino, most common in Río Negro province near Patagonia in the south. This grape lacks the Muscat aromas.
A grape thought to have no genetic connection to Torrontés found in Galicia, the Canary Islands and Argentina is Turruntés de Rioja, a variety nearly lost in Rioja, but some growers have worked hard to recuperate it. This grape has been in Rioja since 1847, mainly in the towns of Labastida, Abalos and San Vicente de la Sonsierra. The wines have high-pitched stone fruit aromas, and firm fruited volume, spice and depth on the palate, not unlike great wines from the northern Rhone.
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