Argentina is unusual among wine producing nations of the new world in two ways. First, its vineyard area is not dominated by the “noble” grapes we know so well, like chardonnay and merlot, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. Second, the two obscure grapes it is best known for — red malbec and white torrontés — both smell uncommonly floral. Malbec’s scent of violets or hibiscus can hide in plain sight, lost in a forest of dark red wine aromas, but a springlike smell of blooms is much harder to miss in torrontés wines such as this one, as though white flowers such as lilies or gardenias have been infused into a dry, unoaked white wine. Torrontés is what is known in the wine trade as an “aromatic white,” meaning its wines have a stronger smell than the milder norm associated with grapes like pinot grigio or chardonnay. The source of a floral scent in wine is a class of organic compounds called terpenes. Since most of what we call flavor is perceived by the sense of smell, not by the tongue, a stronger smell means a stronger taste by definition. In high concentrations, terpenes can be pungently perfumey, as in moscato or gewurztraminer wines. But, at the lower levels found in here in torrontés, or other grapes like viognier, they simply add an exotic aromatic accent that adds flavor interest and complexity.
Trivento “White Orchid” Torrontés, Argentina. $9.99 (regularly $11.99; sale price through April 29). PLCB Item #4382