From $16.99, 109 Swedish krone, €14.50, Can$22.90, £16.50
Find the Lurton wine
I've chosen this particular Argentine white from the François Lurton international stable of wines detailed here because of its ingenuity. Friulano is the new name for the tangy, dominant grape variety in Friuli, north-east Italy, that used to be known as Tocai Friulano until the Hungarians objected. (See Farewell Tocai Friulano.) The vine is also known as Sauvignon Vert or Sauvignonasse and has long been relatively common in Chile and Argentina, where for years its produce was labelled 'Sauvignon'.
It is hardly surprising that it is widely planted in Argentina, where such a high proportion of the population is of Italian origin. Inspried by the confident, characterful dry white blends of Friuli, French wine producer François Lurton decided to underline rather than obscure the relationship between this variety and Italy by specially bottling and labelling its produce as Gran Lurton, Corte Friulano 2009 Valle de Uco, a blend of 70% Friulano with 20% Pinot Gris, 8% Chardonnay and 2% of the Argentina scented signature white grape Torrontés. (François Lurton told me there was also a little Viognier in here.)
The brothers Lurton (about whom I will be writing in detail tomorrow) have form in promoting white wine grapes from obscurity in Argentina. The Lurtons were the first to see the potential for Pinot Gris in Argentina and introduced the variety (Alsace clones 52 and 53) to Argentina with the first vintage being 2002. The resulting wine has far more fruit intensity and character than the oceans of Pinot Grigio on sale around the world and Lurton Pinot Gris has become one of Argentina's most successfully exported white wines.
Initially they blended a bit of Friulano into the Pinot Gris but now they are doing the reverse and allowing the Friulano vine some time in the sun. But instead of making it simply in stainless steel, this interesting blend has been given full barrel fermentation and lees-ageing treatment à la white burgundy, and very successful and interesting the result is too. It has good acidity and fruit, even if the oak is still slightly perceptible, and it manages to be very persistent yet very refreshing with notes of green fruits. I would drink it with substantial fish, chicken or pasta dishes at some point over the next two years.
François Lurton claims that he is trying to get his neighbours in the high-altitude vineyards around Tupungato in Mendoza province to take their Friulano rather more seriously. This is a good start - although it's a shame that Brits so far have to pay Harrods prices for it.
I asked François about prospects for Sauvignon Blanc, grown by some Mendoza producers (Tapiz sticks in my mind), in Argentina. He claims it could be interesting if grown south of Buenos Aires but that he reckons Mendoza is too hot for this variety.
Note how many countries this Lurton wine is available in, even if not widely in any of them.
I had a fine Friulano with some age on it at Danny Meyer's great Italian restaurant Maialino in New York last week. Masut da Rive, GG Friulano 2007 Isonzo del Friuli, imported by Vignaioli, is still fresh as a daisy but with very charming lemony richness - really a mature white with great personality that I see from Wine-searcher.com is available retail at $24.99 in New York and €13.90 in Germany.