Turning to Argentinian Whites

In the week that followed the holidays, when I returned to earth with a thump to reflect on the fun and parties and food and drink I had consumed over the holiday season, there was a moment when I thought I’d spend all of January eating those boxes of mandarin oranges, and drinking nothing by sparkling water.

Fortunately, as a wine lover, that moment passed fairly quickly … but I must say that I am having a period of more-than-normal appreciation for white wines.

Their comparative simplicity and a sense of lightness (at least in some cases) seems to sit better in this period of post-holiday recovery.

Perhaps it was with that thought in mind that I stopped by the Liquor Corp and picked up two Argentinian white wines to try this past weekend.

The first was a bottle of Pascual Toso Sauvignon Blanc ($16.30). I bought it out of curiosity, as I am a huge fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs (in my opinion the best in the world), but wanted to branch out.

There are a significant number of excellent American Sauvignons, and I have been delighted by several Sauvignons from the Loire Valley region of France, with their lovely floral bouquets.

But the benchmark for me has been the citrusy New Zealand offerings. I have loved serving with them with seafood, some poultry dishes, and just sipping them on a warm summer afternoon.

Pascual Toso vineyards, in the famed Mendoza region of Argentina, were founded in the 1890s, and have an international reputation.

This is one of their more modest wines, but it works for me, as I have a fetish about not being prepared to spend nearly as much on a white wine as I will on a red.

This being said, it was a very drinkable wine, with some grapefruit-like citrus notes in both the bouquet (smell) and taste. It is fresh and dry, and I can absolutely imagine serving it with seafood, and perhaps some pasta dishes with a mild alfredo sauce.

The second Argentinian white was a very different wine and, to my mind, much more of a standout. It was La Consulta Reserva, a white wine made from Torrontés grapes coming from Finca La Celia, and available for around $18.00.

It too comes from the Mendoza region of Argentina, and is a new offering at the wine store. It was featured at the Rotary Club Wine and Fine Food Festival last October.

Finca La Celia is another Mendoza vineyard dating to the 1890s. Their Torrontés is an excellent example of the characteristic white wine grape of Argentina.

There are three varieties of Torrontés grapes in Argentina, the most pre-eminent being Torrontés Riojano, which is used in this wine. It is thought that the grape was originally brought to Argentina by early Spanish colonists, quite possibly missionaries.

Interestingly, after five years in the Yukon, I have suddenly come across two different Torrontés grape wines in the YLC, which has been a pleasant surprise. Torrontés is the signature Argentinian white wine, the way Malbec is their signature red. This one is grown about 100 km south of Mendoza, at almost 1000 metres altitude, hand harvested and aged in oak barrels.

The term “reserva” usually means that a wine is aged longer than a common variety, but given that this is a 2009 vintage, I’m not sure what the Argentinian “reserva” standard is.

In any event, you can’t argue with the outcome.

I found it very dry, but with a slightly floral finish. At dinner with a friend, she suggested – and I agree – that it would be an excellent complement to creamy white pasta sauces, and would stand up well to any strong garlic sauce.

It also occurred to me that it would have been very good with my Christmas turkey, and be a lovely way to cleanse the gravy from my tongue and prepare me for the next bite.

I suspect it would also be excellent with mussels in a garlic sauce, or a stronger-tasting fish like salmon, though it might overwhelm halibut.

All in all, I found the Torrontés a happy addition to the Yukon wine selection, and I urge you to give one a try now that it seems to be a permanent part of the YLC list!


P.S. Pursuant to my November article on special ordering that good Spanish Rioja from the BC wine list through the Yukon Liquor Corp., it took about five weeks to get here. I have been very pleased with the results, and expect to order more from that list over the coming year.

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