Rising mercury means lighter, chilled and more refreshing wines.
For many that means a ubiquitous Pinot Gris, an unoaked Chardonnay or a deliciously herbaceous, slightly citrusy Sauvignon Blanc.
For me, the ultimate contrarian, I turn to lesser known grapes form the international arena. As you're trolling the aisles of the package store, keep watch for the leading white grape of Argentina -- Torrontes.
Historians, who can be more divisive than a room full of stuffy oenophiles, still can't agree on how this luscious, aromatic grape landed in South America, but the general belief is that it came ashore with Spanish missionaries -- who brought it from more exotic Mediterranean climates.
Regardless, the grape has flourished in Argentina where it has acclimated to higher elevation plantings, as well as rooting nicely in glacial basins. Hot summers and cold winters create clearly delineated ranges of temperatures -- and the arid landscape lends to a terroir that help influence the organic flavors of Torrontes.
I recently poured Crios 2008 Torrontes among a trio of suitable summer white wines and found it was as refreshing and enjoyable as earlier vintages.
Wine maker Susan Balboa is a rarity in the predominately male-dominated Argentine wine industry. She gained acclaim with her initial releases of a reserve line that included Torrontes, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. Crios (which means "offspring") pays homage to her remaining grapes -- and her three children whose handprints are represented on the label.
Crios Torrontes showcases enticing aromas that are strikingly similar to Viognier (I'll visit this lovely variety later), with hints of peach pit, white pear, flowers and orange citrus fruit. On the palate, it has a beautiful structure and acidity along with enticing fruit flavors that keep you coming back for another sip. Fruity, floral and yet still quite dry, this wine is a wonderful partner with smoked meats, mild to medium-strong cheeses, and seafood -- especially crab.
Habersham Beverage Tasting Panel scored Crios Torrontes a 90 -- which is high praise from these local critics.
Some Torrontes, like Trivento 2008 Select Torrontes or Finca La Linda 2008 Torrontes will also serve up enough crispness to satisfy Sauvignon Blanc lovers -- while retaining the aromatics and spice notes that characterize Torrontes.
I recently tasted La Linda Torrontes and found it had plenty of body -- with a set of aromas that presented jasmine, fennel and the bright, tart hint of green apple. La Linda is produced by Bodega Luigi Bosca; it is one of 10 varietals the winery bottles under the La Linda label.
The grapes grow in the Salta Valley, where long summers encourage excellent vine growth. Warm days and cold nights aid maturation and sweetness. The sandy, permeable soil calls for aggressive irrigation.
The wine has a nice balance between fruitiness and floral characteristics -- and finishes with crisp acidity.
Both are certainly candidates to keep on hand for a refreshing glass of wine after yard work, to pair with grilled shrimp -- or to simply enjoy with friends.
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