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  • Jancis Robinson
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  • Jancis Robinson
29 Jul 2008

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Yes, there is more to Argentina than Malbec from Mendoza. This exotically aromatic dry white is a bargain way to meet the country’s second great gift to the world of wine, the Torrontés grape, most of which is grown in the much more northerly vineyards of Cafayete in the province of Salta

We had a long and fruitful discussion on the members’ forum about Argentina’s signature white wine grape Torrontés which comes in several subvarieties and, while it may originally have come from Spain, has etched its own very distinctive Argentine personality. It has something in common with Viognier in that it is headily perfumed, full bodied but is generally dry. The first examples I came across back in the mid 1990s tended to be a bit too alcoholic, a bit oily and sometimes a little bitter. But since then there has been a refinement of the style, not least by Susana Balbo of Dominio del Plata whose Torrontés can be found at Majestic in the UK.

Alamos Torrontés 2007 Argentina is a great value example of modern Torrontés, part of a well-distributed range produced by Catena, the most cosmopolitan and successful Argentine wine producer. (Dr Nicolas Catena used to enjoy being called the Robert Mondavi of Argentina but possibly likes it less now that this pioneer Napa Valley company is but a cog in the giant machine that is the world’s largest wine company, Constellation.) As you can see, the Alamos wine is beautifully packaged – looks far more expensive than it is - but it also tastes good.

Torrontés characteristically has a particularly exotic grapey aroma with something floral about it. This example is all that, but it is so rich aromatically that it almost smells like toffee. However there is so much racy, tingling acidity on the palate that it could happily be served with strongly flavoured salads and pasta dishes, although I think it would probably be best as an aperitif. Made from Torrontés grapes ripened in the clear mountain air and the light, sandy soils round the Andean holiday town of Cafayate, this wine has a very healthy acid/pH balance and an alcohol level of only 12.7%.

Like the equally good, possibly even better, Tomero Torrontés 2007 made by Carlos Pulenta and sold in the UK at £7.25 by Great Western Wine, the Alamos wine is billed almost reflexively by its UK importers as coming from Mendoza but in fact the fruit was grown in Salta way to the north. 

Another excellent example is M&S, La Esperanza Estate Torrontes 2007 at just £5.99 from Marks & Spencer. 

Like the many Alamos varietals, the Alamos Torrontés is easy to find in the US, and is also available in France, Denmark and Brazil.

In the UK it is imported by Bibendum Wine who are selling it at £7.54  but expect to sell it to other independent retailers soon. Bibendum have a joint venture with Catena in the form of the great-value Argento brand, currently retailing in the UK at £5.99. I heard recently however that so unprofitable is the British retail wine market that the UK now represents only 15% of global sales of Argento. Food for thought.

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