One of my favorite white varietals is Malvasia. Clean, crisp, refreshingly full, served chilled it is the perfect accompaniment to a picnic plate of charcuterie or grilled seafood. In the fall it is a perfect sipper, and going into the winter I enjoy a glass(read “bottle”) while cooking risotto or more gamy roasts – before switching into something red. With its white flower, white peach, apricot, pushing elderflower/exotic fruit notes, joined by honeycomb on the palate as well as the mouth-feel Malvasia has the complexity of a red with a refreshing twist. But what does that have to do with the varietal in the title? Torrontes Riojana is Malvasia, well maybe.
Torrentes has been linked to/is a crossing of Muscat d’Alexandria and Mission – the wine grape that covered American plantings pre-Phylloxera. However, it is also a synonym for Malvasia, and yet Malvasia comes from Greece and is its own varietal… That seems pretty confusing, so let’s just get to the bottle.
This particular Torrontes is grown 3,000ft above sea level in the semi-desert, continental climate of Mendoza, Argentina. The Zolo vineyard is 100% sustainable, the grapes are hand picked and double hand sorted (could mean they use both hands, could mean they sort twice…). The vines are rather young at 10 years old and are highly productive. The vineyard harvests and then lets the grapes cool before soft pressing. While soft pressing in steel, nitrogen is introduced to the tank to eliminate any chance of oxidation thereby keeping the ultimate freshness of the grapes and producing the full aromatic capabilities of the wine.
Torrontes Riojana versus Malvasia Istriana is different and rightly so in the “classic” Old World vs New World way. The fruit on this wine is much more pronounced, the floral notes are at an all time high for freshness. The acidity is vibrant and the mouth-feel is clean. This Torrontes lacks the waxiness of Malvasia Istriana however the solid medium body weight of the wine and the perception of sweetness – just perfectly ripe fruit – make up for it. I enjoy my Malvasia with a few years age whereas this bottle was from the 2010 vintage. The vintage differences will obviously add to the structural distinctions of each wine; making this wine a great late-summer sipper before beefing up to more complex full bodied whites – Malvasia Istriana before 08 – and ultimately to the winter reds. At $12.99 a bottle it is a great wine to keep on hand.