The winds that blow across the high plains and steep valleys of the Andes in Argentina influence the life and culture of the Mendoza wine growing region. The icy Polar winds blowing in from Antarctica chill the bones and for the grapes, force the sap deep into the vines. The spring winds, the Zonda, bring a rousing warmth and generate new growth on the vines. The third wind, Sudestada, in the summer months help cool the searing sun and bring about ripening. One of the principal wineries of the region is named Trivento, three winds, and has achieved an international reputation for fine wines.
The wines of this region are as unique and the region itself. The Mendoza valley is at high altitude, some vineyard above the 5,000-foot level. Rainfall is sparse forcing the grape vine roots to burrow deep to extract what little water they can from the underground springs. All this results in lower production levels in grapes, but grapes with high intensity and flavor. It is little wonder that the wines they produce are of such quality.
Malbec is the predominant red grape variety and much has been written about this hearty, robust red wine in this column and elsewhere. Much less known is the lovely white wine produced in this region, Torrontés. It was originally thought that this grape variety came from Spain from whence came many immigrants to the region; but recent research using DNA technology has revealed that Torrontés to unrelated to the Spanish variety with a similar name. The surprising results of this research revealed that the parent grape varieties are the highly aromatic Muscat of Alexandria grown extensively in Italy and other Mediterranean areas and an ancient variety known as Mission — the very grape variety the early Spanish missionaries planted extensively in South America , Mexico and California. How it came to cross-breed is unknown, but the result is a grape variety totally indigenous to Argentina and grown no where else.
The wine produced by the Torrontés is bright golden in color with greenish tints, a bouquet of roses and violets with hints of citrus and a crispness on the palate that is well structured with flavors of tropical fruits and lemon. The wine is elegant and is perfect as an aperitif but also pairs well with seafood, grilled chicken and other white meat. Its crispness and flavors match up nicely with Asian foods. Its versatility makes it a great summertime wine for those long evenings on the deck or patio.
A major producer of Torrontés is the Trivento winery cited above.
Established in 1996 by Banfi Vintners of Italy, Trivento has grown in reputation and size over the years and is now considered one of the three or four leading wine producers in Argentina. They produce a full line of wines including the typical varieties of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Syrah, but they are best known for the uniquely Argentinean Malbec and
Torrontés. The Trivento wines are widely distributed throughout Michigan along with those of Banfi’s sister winery in Chile, Concha y Toro. Together they represent the best of South America. Price of all these wines are in the $12-15 range and are of outstanding quality in relation to price. There are other brands of Torrontés available on the market; if you can’t find Trivento, try one of the others; you’ll find it a delightful change from the usual Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio you might have been getting just a bit tired of — I find it a pleasant treat on the palate. Dave Ethridge is a nationally known wine writer, certified wine judge, and the director of the Lapeer Chapter of
Tasters Guild International.