Gather round, fellow wine lovers! Today we’re oh-so-excited to be launching a brand new blog series on Glou Glou’s: Know Yo Grape! (and yes perhaps the name was slightly inspired by a certain South African musician – but really it has a nice ring to it, okay). Basically we know how confusing it can be to work out which wine to pick when there are over 1,500 different grape varietals used to make our favourite grown-ups juice (some websites say up to 5,000, some say 10,000, essentially it depends on if you include closely-related clones etc, this is wine geek stuff that goes over our heads too so let’s not get too stuck into that). There are about 150 wine grape varietals planted in significantly commercial amounts around the world, which we reckon is a more manageable amount to get to grips with but even that’s a little intense. We plan to focus on some of the most widely available varietals in these posts so you can actually find these wines easily wherever you are in the world. So grab your vessel of choice and let’s get tasting!
I (Kristen) am spending a few months in the wine industry in Napa Valley, California and beyond the luscious, regal Cabernets and Merlots I’m getting to know, one of the wineries I have the chance to work with, Recuerdo, happens to be from the Mendoza region in Argentina and produces stunning examples of what have become the country’s signature varietals: Torrontés and Malbec. This past weekend I visited some friends in San Francisco and it was the perfect moment to clamber up onto a city rooftop and crack open two bottles of these varietals that are grown and loved the world over.
One of the best things about Napa Wine Country is that it’s spitting distance (we use spittoons, of course) from this spectacular city. While I’m pretty much always down for a good vineyard stroll, I’m a city girl at heart and I am relishing the fact that it takes about an hour to pop on over to SF for everything a city slicker could want, from weekly roller discos to Mexican/Indian fusion cuisine. On Saturday, after checking out the breathtaking 360 degree view of the city from the Coit Tower, some fellow South Africans and I headed back to a slightly more humble rooftop in Bernal Heights for a little wine appreciation. So, without further adieu, here’s your mini guide to Malbec and Torrontés:
Who? Malbec is the saucy minx of the red wine world – rich, dark and juicy. Initially the most widely-planted varietal in France, Malbec has now made itself most at home in the elevated wine regions of Argentina such as Mendoza.
What? This is a voluptuous wine characterised by its deep, inky colour, velvety texture and silky tannins. Think aromas of plump, dark fruit with a sultry, smoky finish. A real charmer, Malbec is not a difficult wine to become infatuated with.
Where? In addition to France and Argentina, Malbec is grown in Chile, the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, Bolivia, Italy and Mexico. This little lady sure does get around!
With? Because Malbec doesn’t have a super long finish, it is best paired with leaner meats, stronger cheeses and rustic vegetables (so hold back on anything too saucy – you don’t want to smother the poor gal).
Who? Torrontés Riojano is the happy accident of the wine world. Essentially the unplanned offspring between two white varietals – Muscat of Alexandria and Criolla Chica – Argentina has adopted Torrontés with welcoming arms.
What? Torrontés is a crisp, aromatic white with moderate acidity and a full-bodied, smooth mouth feel. Think dreamy aromas of peach and apricot – this is an ideal summer wine if you’re not into overly acidic whites but still want something bright and fresh, at a very reasonable price.
Where? Torrontés is a bit of a homebody, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find it growing beyond Argentina and Chile. However, as Argentina’s signature white varietal it’s likely to show face on international wine shelves, so don’t be shy to get your Torrontés awn.
With? When it comes to food pairing, Torrontés is delightfully flexible. Due to its zesty freshness, it complements spicy dishes like a treat.
We were all rather enamoured with both the Torrontés and Malbec we tried from Recuerdo – if you’re looking for lovely examples of these varietals they’re available at the Recuerdo online store. Let us know if you taste any goodies!