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Week 38 – Negroamaro

We tasted: Domodo Negroamaro 2017, Majestic, £9.99

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “Negroamaro is one of the lesser known reds of Italy. It comes from the Southern area of Apulia where it can get very hot so you have to expect a rich red, potentially with a bit of that raisin richness that comes from ultra ripeness. I’m not naturally a fan of big reds so I haven’t been expecting much this week. But I am hoping we get a real taste of these unique grapes that make Italy such an interesting country to explore for wine.

First the colour of my wine is ultra dark, almost opaque which often happens with warm climate reds because the anthocyanin that come from the skins accumulate a bit more with warm climate grapes. I can also see those strong tears that come onto the side of the glass, also a common feature with sugar ripe grapes made into wine.

The aroma matches my first impression, the fruit is rich and baked, lots of prunes, raisins and liquorice notes. To taste it is fleshy, with that ripe fruit profile, mixed with molasses and mediterranean herbs like oregano and tarragon. There is a fair bit of tannin giving it a grip that is typical of Italian reds, but it is also quite quaffable because the alcohol is surprisingly low at 12%.

I’m not quite sure how they managed that with all these ripe fruit flavours, I suspect some winemaker wizardry has gone on. I don’t think this is going to be the Negroamaro that converts me but it was certainly inoffensive and I’d be happy to serve it to friends at a party.

Andy says: “Fairly lame post from me this week, as once again I had very little time to actually taste this wine.

I don’t get any of the flavours Emma mentions, but she is quite a bit posher than me so we’ll put it down to that. As she said, it is an inoffensive drinkable red, and something I’d expect to be given in an average Italian as a their house wine.

Hopefully I’ll get to taste it again and add some more to this.”

Buying Guide

Negroamaro is a black grape from the south of Italy, especially the region Puglia and Salento. We will be looking for a 100% grape blend from these areas. Some large supermarkets do stock this grape but you may need to look in specialist stores.

Week 37 – Grillo

We tasted: 2017 Grillo Sicilia, Rupe Secca, £8.45, Haynes Hanson & Clark

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “Our grape buying quest has taken us far and wide but this week was a special pleasure. Whilst in the Cotswolds for a wedding we popped by a high street in a pretty town called Stow on Wold. As we walked past at least a dozen tea shops, this beautiful wine shop Haynes Hanson & Clarke emerged like a mirage.

One of those traditional shops with wooden crates everywhere and bottles that all look shiny and new. This was also a lovely coincidence because a great friend Siobhan who I studied the MW with is their buying director but I had entirely forgotten they had a countryside off shoot to their London shop. If I’m honest, when we stepped into the shop I wasn’t holding much hope for an unusual wine like Grillo to be on their shelves, yet within their select Italian wine range it certainly was. So this glass sitting before me right now feels a little fateful. I hope it lives up to that.

Grillo is a special grape for me because soon after I passed the MW I was asked to do a talk on this very grape in Sicily, to an audience of food and wine critics. That daunting feat was made worse by the fact that just before I was due on stage, I was introduced to Sicily’s very own Grillo specialist, and told they would be in the audience. Fortunately I managed to fumble my way through the talk, partially by asking the said specialist to tell us everything he knew, and he seemed delighted. As a result, I’m happy to say I know more than the average person about this lovely grape.

We mentioned in our notes that it is a cross between two other local grapes and I think this is what gives it the diverse character. It has this lovely honeysuckle, floral aroma but with a rich tropical core of fruit that has a touch of spice making it feel exotic in style. I would say this is the perfect grape for someone who typically likes whites with a bit of richness and body like Chardonnay or Viognier.

But onto this particular Grillo which is happily one I’ve never tried before. It shows the grape brilliantly. The aroma is bright, perfumed with a veritable fruit salad array of characters. The palate is just as fruity but not in a confected or syrupy way so that it feels fresh and not heavy to taste. There is just the perfect amount of acidity to the wine that holds these flavours up and keeps the palate zingy. Altogether a very satisfying experience because I really feel we’ve experience Grillo as it should be. I hope whichever wine everyone else manages to taste is as good as this.

Andy says: “It’s been a hectic week of socialising for me this week, and to be honest, I only had a couple of mouthfuls of this while I popped home to get changed before going to the residents’ AGM. Yes, it was as exciting as it sounds.

I would say that it had a lovely fruity aroma and was beautifully clean and crisp on the palate, with a perfect balance between the zingy acidity and fruity flavours. It really did go down very easily, and is perhaps one of my favourite whites so far.”

Buying Guide

Grillo is a Sicilian grape that is becoming increasingly popular. It has the richness & fragrance of Chardonnay with a slightly spicy character. So check out the Italian section of the local shop and look for Grillo on the label.

Week 36 – Verdejo

We tasted: Beronia Rueda Verdejo, £8.99, Waitrose

Tasting Notes

Emma says:”I really wanted to find a 2017 vintage Verdejo this week because I have always seen this as a grape that needs to be youthful to show well.

After a lot of searching I found one from a respected producer, Beronia, that was 2016. I felt that was a good enough guarantee that it would be a decent example. Beronia is best known as a traditional Rioja producer, but they must be branching out into this neighbouring region of Reuda where this wine comes from.

I wasn’t expecting much from Verdejo week because wines I’ve tasted from this grape are often quaffable but equally forgettable and even sometimes dilute. When I tried to memorise the grape for my tasting exams I always thought it was somewhere between a Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio but nothing distinct in itself.
Fortunately buying a wine from Beronia was a good bet because I was nicely surprised by the experience. The age gave the aroma a sage leaf, soft herbal character contrasted by honeysuckle and lime blossom, a bit like an aged Riesling. Then to taste it became almost tropical, with mild pineapple fruit punch flavours, and a limey tang. I also got a bit of slate-y minerality that gave it dimension. These flavours lasted quite well which also impressed me. Ultimately it was a lovely citrus driven, thirst quenching wine with a bit more oomph than I normally get from Verdejo.”

Andy says: “I’m noticing a pattern in that I struggle to describe the whites. Reds seem easier, I guess they have more flavourful characteristics.

This one, again, I’m going to say tastes winey, but not as winey as others. That’s not very helpful as I still haven’t worked out what that winey taste is. It’s also limey sour, dry, and a bit oily. I preferred this one crisp and cold fresh from the fridge, it got more sour as it warmed up. I did at one point think I got a taste of almond, but that really is about as far as it goes with this one. ”

Buying Guide

Verdejo is a lesser known white grape from Spain. We will be seeking out one from the region Reuda where this grape has become increasingly popular in recent years.

Week 35 – Cabernet Sauvignon

We tasted: Chateau Blaignan Medoc 2012 £14.50-9.67 on save 1/3 now

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “This week Andy really held me back. I was ready to crack open a fine bottle of Bordeaux for our Cabernet experience. One of those really pricey bottles that I’ve saved for a “special” occasion. Since I never seem to find a grand enough moment to fit opening one, I thought 52 grapes might fit the bill. But no, Andy was my kill joy, he said we needed to find something similar to what other readers might be drinking. Do I sound bitter?

So I didn’t open this bottle with a lot of relish. However I’m really happy to say that opening it was a nice reminder that everyday Bordeaux can be a joy. A lot of wine trade people dismiss ordinary Bordeaux as being lean and green tasting. That is because the Cabernet grapes in the moderate climate of Bordeaux can struggle to ripen and if they don’t the flavours can become bitter and leafy, plus the tannin in the grapes can also be unripe and rough. Potentially I’m just a bit immune to those flavours because my lovely dad who is the ripe old age of 91 has been drinking at least a half a bottle of Berry Bros Extra Ordinary Claret since I was born; which was a while ago. Consequently I’ve had a lot of experience with this grape!

Onto this wine which I happen to know really well because I import it for the company I work at. I’m so pleased that it really shows that definitive Bordeaux character in a good way. The aromas are heady and perfumed, with typical cassis and sweet menthol leaf, combining with leather and tobacco. Then on the taste it showed through a sense of classic minerality (pencil lead if you have ever tasted it) and fresh crunchy brambles mixing with a hint of padron grilled green peppers that defines to me the greenness that is good in Bordeaux. The tannins are a feature as you would expect in a boldly structured grape like Cabernet, they feel grippy and leave a texture on your teeth, probably a colour if I’d drank the whole bottle. Cabernet is also the grape that really encapsulates what “tertiary” characters are in wine. This term refers to the aromas and flavours that happen with age and when a wine moves away from primary characters such as fresh fruit and flowers. Cabernet has a lot of structure and acidity that soften out nicely with age and then these “other” characters evolve which also bring complexity for example: leather, tobacco, tar or pot pourri. This wine only has six years of age but ones that are much older will be become dominated by these tertiary characters more than the fruit.

On food matches do try a lump of cheese with this wine. The heavy tannin in  Cabernet reacts with protein and then they have this nice synergy where the wine softens the taste of the cheese and the protein then helps the tannins to soften so the wine is more approachable.

A final personal note is that I love Bordeaux because every time I have a sip I somehow feel closer to my Dad. I’m not sure he feels the same way or he’d be thinking about me a lot! But it is nice to have that personal connection with a wine.”

Andy says: “I was looking forward to this week as I’ve always thought I was a CabSav fan. I think I still am, but am coming to the annoying realisation that maybe not all wine is the same.

I think I’ve probably only ever had big, bold, shouty Cabs from e.g. California. Well, I know that’s not true as I’ve had plenty of Bordeauxs in the past, I guess I’ve never really clicked that they’re the ‘same’ thing. Basically, I was expecting an explosive mouthful of flavour.
My first sniff of this wine seemed salty, sort of salted caramel, and also some high tones (those aromas that, for me, get right up your nose and right into your brain), but other than that, I didn’t get too much. After a while that changed and I did get some fruit, but very hidden, definitely not ‘fruit forward’. Taste wise it was the same, it seemed a bit watery and washed out to me, but again I’m probably hankering for a big gutsy red. Emma did explain to me that it was to do with the age (we had a 2012), but I wasn’t really listening so not sure what she said.”

Buying Guide

Cabernet Sauvignon is the world famous red grape that makes wines with great structure and ageability. We are going to seek one out from the classic region of Bordeaux. Look for a “left bank” Bordeaux wine which can be identified by names like Medoc, Margaux, St Julien or Pauillac, these have the most Cabernet in the blend.

Week 34 – Cinsault

We tasted: De Martino Old Vines Cinsault, Itata, £11.99

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “I’ve been looking forward to this week because I knew exactly which wine I wanted us to taste. It is actually quite rate to find a 100% Cinsault wine but I have fortunately found my ultimate one when visiting a favourite Chilean producer De Martino three years ago.

This is a family business that has been making wine for generations but the younger clan headed up by Sebastian and winemaker brother Marco are now championing a return to old traditions. Sebastian is mad about buying up long forgotten plots of vines in overlooked regions like Itata and Maule where the vines are hundreds of years old. He took me on a memorable visit in tropical downpours where we drank this wine standing under a tin roof shivering. I remember thinking if the wine tasted that good in those conditions it had to be great. So let’s see if Andy agrees.

Given it’s still pretty warm in London right now we decided to chill our wine, which I also thought was fitting because it is quite a light bodied red which really suits being chilled. To the first smell it had that gorgeous scented dark cherry character with a hit of farmyard and smoky pencil lead, giving it a classic European charm. If I was tasting it blended I don’t think I’d ever think of Chile, but Itata is quite cold and wet which is why these wines can have a more restrained style. To taste it was just so light and elegant it sort of danced on the tongue, the tannin texture being really delicate. The fruit is slightly cassis but also with a mellow cherry flavour and a mild herbal freshness. The acidity feels nicely lifted but not sharp. To sum it up it really is a pretty wine.

Onto potential food matches, I would say this is a great red to go with food where a heavy red would dominate. The light tannins mean it would work really nicely with fish like salmon and could also work with curries. I think it would also be one to substitute for dishes that I would normally match with Pinot Noir, like mushrooms, game birds or white meats.”

Andy says: “My first sniff of this made me think of vinegar, which is never a good thing. But, the wine was fresh out of the fridge, and maybe it was a trick of the temperature as it soon blew off.

I also got a bit of leather sofa, which is a bona fide wine tasting thing to say. The first tasting was also disappointing, very thin, very light, not much to talk about at all. Downhearted, I logged in and started building this page, finding and cropping the images etc.

Some ten minutes had passed and the second taste was much different. It was full of character and full of black fruit flavours, blackberry, blackcurrant etc, even a bit Ribena-y. Lesson learned, don’t over chill your reds. This is a lovely summer drinking red.”

Buying guide

Cinsault is a red grape from France, it was often used in blends to bulk out a wine because it is high yielding. We are going to seek out a 100% Cinsault from old vines, typical countries that do this are France, South Africa or Chile. These are quite rare so we’d recommend buying any one you can find.

Week 33 – Falanghina

We tasted: Falanghina, £11.99, Majestic Wines

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “An Italian grape this week and one with a name that I think does it a disservice. Pronounced Fal-an-gheena, it really doesn’t have the prettiest of names. It has an aggressive tone which is a sensory turn off for me. Asking for a glass of Gavi or Fiano (other Italian whites) in a wine bar sounds so much more elegant.

I was desperate to find a recent vintage of this grape. So many traditional Italian importers think Falanghina is a grape that tastes just as good in two or three years, but I think it tastes best when fresh from the harvest. It comes from the Southern region of Campania and it doesn’t have naturally high acidity, age can turn it flat and dull.

We found a 2017 vintage and I hope anyone else who is joining us got that too. Andy has for the first time tasted before me, so watch out for his review below, it may be the most honest so far…

Onto my tasting of this wine. I’ll start with the fragrance, whilst this isn’t a naturally aromatic grape I was pleased to find ours had a vibrant expression, a pear compote note with hints of cinnamon spice, almost sweet and tropical but gentle. To taste it has a weight that isn’t typical in Italian whites but makes it nice and smooth. The flavours aren’t pronounced but they are unique in a combination of pear, quince and gentle peppery notes. There is a mineral smoky dimension that also gives it finesse. It has one of those flavour profiles that is difficult to express since it isn’t necessarily fruity there is almost a savoury tang to it. I think that is why this grape is special it is distinct and difficult to compare to other grapes you may have tasted before. And for that reason I would say it is well worth seeking out.

As for food matches, the delicate flavours of this wine mean it shouldn’t go with food that is too powerful. But given its mineral and savoury dimensions it can match up well to food as a complimentary flavour. I think it would be a beautiful match for a plain grilled fish but potentially one for a pasta dish heavy in parmesan or creamy sauce.

PS – I told the guy who served me at Majestic we would be reviewing his wine on this blog and he seemed ever so disinterested – so I’m leaving this calling card to see if we can get him to respond!

Andy Says: “I’m taking a massive risk here, as I’m tasting and writing before Emma for the very first time. I’m about to show myself up.

The first thing to note is that the bottle was incredibly difficult to open. The rim was rounded and didn’t let the corkscrew latch on, so much swearing was done. It took a good few minutes to open, the cork was incredibly stiff.

Battle over and cork discarded, I poured. First thing I noticed was the incredibly pale colour. I decided it was ‘pale straw’, and then looked at the handy Wine Folly colour chart. I’d only gone and nailed it. Woop. High fives all round, except I was home alone, so let out a little sigh instead.

On the nose, I get a slight hint of toasty biscuit, maybe even a hint of butter, like shortbread.
Taste wise, it doesn’t have the ‘winey’ taste that I still haven’t identified. It’s fruity, a touch floral (not overly so in anyway) and not that sweet. I thought there was quite a bit of acid going on, I felt my mouth pucker and water on the first sip/mouthful, but it lessened after that, so maybe it was just my palate adjusting to the several beers I’d had before the wine. The bottle says tropical fruits and aromatic herbals. I’ll give them the first, but herbals is something I’m still struggling to taste.”

Buying Guide

Falanghina is a white grape coming from Campania in the South of Italy. It isn’t really produced anywhere else. So just head to the Italian white section of your local store and see if you can find it.

Week 32 – Mourvèdre

We tasted: Domain Bunan Bandol, M&S, £11.32 (down from £17)

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “This heatwave in the UK has brought with it many uncomfortable experiences. Oven like conditions on the Jubilee Line, muggy offices where everyone is fighting over a USB powered portable fan, and not to mention the restless nights without air con or breezes. We just aren’t hardwired for heat in this little island.

I can now add to that list the need to taste Mourvèdre on a hot sweaty night. I arrived home off the heated pavements just swooning for a glass of something chilled and white. But no, I devised this dastardly 52 Grapes schedule so I really must drink this 14.5% alcohol beast of a red. So here goes.

Mourvèdre actually loves heat, as grapes go. Winemakers use it in a blend because it retains a good amount of acidity in heat. That is difficult in warm climates because as the grape accumulates sugar it loses acidity. On the first aroma this is definitely a ripe red, full of brooding dark fruits with a spicy and earthy edge, exactly what I expect from Mourvèdre. The fruit is plummy and sweet with a gentle perfume of fresh beetroot. To taste it is really a mouthful, the feeling is grippy but not astringent and it sits heavily on the palate with that warming alcohol really hitting at the back of the mouth. The fruit flavours are dense and there is this sort of earthy clay taste with gives it a distinct savoury expression. I also get that herbal undertone that is typical of Southern french wines a bit like dried herbs in a pasta sauce. I can really appreciate how complex this wine is, even if it wasn’t what I was feeling like drinking today.  I almost feel a little sad that I’m not sitting by a camp fire chilling in a typically cool English summer evening. This would have been the ultimate wine for that occasion.

So in summary if you love heavy, full bodied reds and haven’t tried Mourvèdre, in particular a Bandol, then please do. This is a wine that may tick all your boxes. I might have to buy another bottle and keep it for when the winter sets in.”

Andy says: “You might have noticed that our notes and pages have been appearing later and later. That’s mostly due to my addiction to Softball and playing Mon/Tue/Wed for the last 10 weeks or so.

That has severely eaten into the time available to keep things up to date. It was the same again this week, as I arrived home at around 10pm (early, actually), hot, tired, sweaty, and needing to taste a Mourvèdre. The first thing I noticed as I poured it was the lovely deep purple ink colour of the wine. I gave it a sniff (it’s what you do) and said it smelt smokey. ‘Not really’, said Emma, who then sniffed it and said ‘actually, yeah it does’. Master of Wine nil, sweaty bloke one.

‘Earthy, smokey richness’ was my next phrase, which scored big points as apparently ‘earthy’ is the classic description, and one I see Emma used. I promise I hadn’t read her notes this time. There was also a touch of ‘farmyard’ to it. If you’ve ever walked through a muddy field of cows, or a barnyard, you’ll know the smell I mean. Not as strong and vomit inducing as the real life smell, obviously, just that hint of countryside. It’s known as brett, and at the right level can add an extra dimension to the wine, which it did here. The tannins were tight and grippy, but let go immediately.”

Buying Guide

Mourvèdre (aka Monastrell in Spain) is a grape variety most commonly used as a small part of a blend. We will be seeking out a Bandol from the South of France where this grape is used as the dominant grape in their styles. Any Monastrell from Spain would equally work well.

Week 31 – Albariño / Alvarinho

We tastes: Tercuis Alvarinho 2015 was £8 at M&S (but delisted a while ago!)

Tasting Notes

Emma says:”Oh no! This is 52grapes first official crisis. I was feeling really smug that we already had a bottle of Albarino tucked at the back of our fridge and for once a shopping mission was averted.

Only now that I’ve managed to drag it out through the entangled assortment of cheese and deli dips have I seen that it is actually the Portuguese version, Alvarinho, and it is 2015 vintage, which in wine terms is really old for this type of wine. I’ve prided myself on finding the best possible version of a grape each week so that Andy and anyone who is following us can taste the real deal. This week Andy is going to taste what old Portuguese whites taste like – nice. Hopefully he won’t read this before tasting so we can get his unbiased view.

Interestingly the aroma has that a kerosene lime cordial character that I get from aged Riesling. That makes sense because Albarino does share the lime blossom aromatic character that Riesling has when young. This Alvarinho is from the Vinho Verde region of Portugal where they make the style crisp lean and refreshing but often not complex. This wine does have decent concentration in fruit with some pineapple, kumquat and lime on that palate. But typically of an older white in this style the fruit has faded in brightness and tastes more like tinned fruit. It still has lovely thirst quenching acidity so it isn’t flat or dull which is a common for future whites. So it is still a pleasing drink. However I bet it was far better to drink two years ago.
So in summary I would say I’ll be buying another Albarino this week and we’ll have to update our notes. Perhaps this is going to be a fun chance to test Andy on whether he likes young or mature whites…”

Andy says: “I think it’s likely that we’ll be tasting another version later this week, so notes on this one will be short.

On first smell I asked Emma if it was oaked. She said no, but that age (this is a 2015) will bring out those notes. I then tasted, and said it reminded me of a buttery toasty Chardonnay. Again, same answer – It’s the age of the wine. Something of a shame as I did quite like this one, smooth and full of flavour. And it’s delisted, so there’s no more left to buy, this was something we’d had in the fridge for a while.”

Buying Guide

Albarino is the white grape coming from the cooler coastal spot of Galicia in Spain; and also known as Alvarino in Portugal. We will be seeking out a version from its classic sub region in that area called Rias Biaxas.

Week 30 – Cortese

We tasted: Gavi di Gavi £12 Marks and Spencer

Tasting Notes

Emma Says: “I have to confess Cortese, or “Gavi” as it is more commonly known, can be a bit of an insipid wine. The type of dry white that makes Andy wrinkle up his nose and say “it tastes wine-y”.

I sometimes wonder if it has reached so many lists in wine bars because “Gavi” has a nice ring to it, satisfyingly Italian and easy to pronounce. Perhaps it also gives the average Pinot Grigio lover something else to drink that is safely bone dry but not so characterful that it could be offensive. And given it has a more premium price tag than the average Italian Pinot Grigio you also get to feel a bit sophisticated.

To look at the other side of the argument, it could be that this delicate and faintly floral white was the type of white wine that would send me into a blind panic on my tasting exams. So I possibly hold a big grudge against it.

To give this poor grape a chance I chose a “Gavi di Gavi” tonight. That means the grapes come from the better slopes of the Gavi region that can only legally be called “Gavi di Gavi”. The remainder of the region is simply called Gavi. Yes, wine is confusing isn’t it.

I let the wine warm up a little which isn’t difficult in the current UK heatwave (It’s not a heatwave, it’s called ‘summer’ – Andy). Sometimes we chill these delicate whites to the bone and that mutes their light aromatics and flavour profile. I was pleased that it really did the trick. I could really detect a soft apricot note to the aroma and a gentle green tea herbal note with touches of honeysuckle. The palate had that pithy acidity that gives it that lean expression and the flavours were delicate on the fruit but with a pleasing mineral tension. It definitely worked as a thirst quencher for a hot summer’s day. I’m still not sure I find it exciting enough to be desperate for more. But on those nights where you just want something satisfyingly dry and white this would do the trick for me.

If you are a lover of these Northern Italian white styles I would urge you to seek out a few other grapes from those regions I find even more interesting than Cortese. Arneis from the same region has the same mineral edge but with a bit more richness on fruit and depth of flavour for me. I also love any white from the Collio region where they have gorgeous white blends and brilliant wines from Pinot Grigio, Fruilano and even Sauvignon Blanc. A rarity that I really enjoy is Manzoni which has heritage from Riesling and Pinot Bianco giving it a fascinating flavour profile.

On a final note the strength of acidity in grapes like Cortese make them great wines to drink alongside rich fatty foods but ones that aren’t too strong in flavour or they swamp the wine. For example a spring vegetable risotto, baked chicken breasts in white sauce or a pizza primavera.”

Andy says: “Well, this doesn’t taste wine-y.

I wish I could more eloquently describe what I mean by that. I just find that lots of white wine, and perhaps the ones at the cheaper end, all have a very similar ‘musty’ smell. This one doesn’t, in fact the first whiff I took was very fruity, tutti fruity in fact, melony pineappley chunks-y.

Unfortunately the taste doesn’t live up to the smell. There’s a hint of the fruit but at about 5% of the intensity of the smell. The real kicker though is that this really catches you at the back of the throat, like a rough whisky would. I don’t know if it’s acid or alcohol, probably acid. If I had to describe this in one word, it would be rough.

Edit: Tasting again 24 hours later, I’d like to revise down my acidity rating. It’s there, I feel it, but it’s not as high as I thought yesterday.”

Buying Guide

Cortese is in fact that grape that makes the wine called Gavi; the wine name coming from the village in Piedmont, Italy rather than the grape. To try the very best version of Cortese look for wines labelled “Gavi di Gavi” which is a smaller sub region where the best vineyard sites are situated.

Week 29 – Torrontes

Tasting Notes

Emma says: “I had my mind firmly fixed on one winemaker when I thought of finding Torrontes this week. For me there is just one Queen of Torrontes and that is Susana Balbo. A powerhouse of a lady who has made a huge impression on me during my visits to Argentina and has persuaded me I can like Torrontes; if she is making it!

She is a legend in the industry being the first formally trained female winemaker in the region, moving on to bravely set up her own successful winery Dominio del Plata and more recently has changed her pursuits to focus on politics having become the governor of Mendoza.

Torrontes is a bit of a perfume bomb of a grape and can take on a soapy flavour and oily texture that has previously put me off. But I found that Susanna’s versions are vastly different. Using grapes from the high altitudes northern Salta region the grapes are more zesty, gently perfumed and floral with a real elegance and freshness.

I sent Andy out on the search for a bottle this week and he found her barrel fermented style which is even more unusual. The barrel and the aromatics in the grape interact a bit like an oaked Sauvignon blanc. This aroma is fascinating and complex, there is a whiff of smoke from the barrel interaction and then a blackcurrant leaf herbal character that opens out to the typical rose petal perfume. To taste is is nicely lean and with a gentle texture from the oak, the flavours are of pithy citrus, plus a white pepper spice note and more rich tropical papaya underlying. It really is a complex wine that needs to be tasted to truly experience it, and if you do ever see it on a list I’d highly recommend it.

Food matching tip would be for Asian cuisine, these types of wine with that floral and tropical notes work extremely well to counter balance spice.”

Andy says: “Having been warned that this was ‘floral’, I approached the wine with trepidation. The first sniff was, to quote Emma, a ‘perfume bomb’.

I remember we had a ‘perfume bomb’ several weeks earlier, so I scrambled back through the calendar to remind myself which one it was. Gewurtztraminer! That cherry lipped abomination that I wasn’t exactly over keen on. Torrontes was off to a bad start before the first sip. And so dear reader(s), I did this for you.

It was (and this is another occasion where my lack of fruit knowledge will let me down) a ‘tropical fruit explosion’. Emma says ‘tropical papaya’, but I don’t think that’s a real fruit. All I can tell you was that it was fruity, and something I’d quite to drink while lying on a Caribbean beach. And… it didn’t have that soapy cherry lip taste that Gewurtztraminer did, which again Emma has said is possible with Torrontes. Maybe I’m getting better at this?

I did then ask her if Torrontes and Gewurtztraminer were similar, and apparently this question blew her mind, as, yes, they are frequently likened. I got a bonus point for linking them. Oh, and I liked this one.

Buying Guide

Torrontes is a white grape that is uniquely found in Argentina. The best versions come from the Northern area of Salta or Catamarca. But if you can’t find one of those then any Argentinian Torrontes will work well.