I have never been to Salta, but torrontés might change that. The white grape, which I first tasted in Mendoza last year, has quickly become my favorite white. It’s the one wine I pair with almost anything now: sushi, cheese, paté, duck, grilled shrimp, and even fish tacos. It serves as a cleanser and can calm down your palate with spicy Asian and Latin foods. On a sunny day, a chilled glass of torrontés – with its hints of grapefruit, elderflower, and apricot – is as smooth and refreshing as any wine I’ve ever had. It’s the same feeling as cracking open a frosty cold beer after an exhausting day.
In 2004, less than 30,000 cases of torrontés were exported to the U.S. In 2010, that number ballooned to 231,000 cases. While I generally bring back a few bottles from Argentina every time I’m there, I’ve been seeing more and more bottles show up in my neighborhood wine shop. I’m particularly fond of O. Fournier’s Urban Uco brand, which has popped up everywhere and I can usually snag a bottle for around $10. There are better labels of course, but year after year Urban Uco is consistently good. It’s reliable. I’d bet on it if it was in a race.
While the majority of torrontés I’ve tasted has been from Mendoza, but where the grape thrives is in Argentina’s cold, wind swept north near Salta. The high altitude region is a long way away from Buenos Aires or even Santiago, Chile. It’s closer to Bolivia than La Boca. Salta’s torrontés aren’t as flashy as those further south. They’re crisper. More delicate. Richer. I think a glass might be ideal with a Salta empanada. Maybe on a sidewalk café on Calle Balcarce, as the sun is setting and the afternoon crowds are beginning to gather. I guess I’ll never know until I get there.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.