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Colomé Torrontés Estate 2013, Argentina
Cost: $14-16
I f you haven’t discovered the white wines of South America, you are missing a real treat. Most people think of the delicious reds grown on the slopes of the Andes Mountains, especially Malbec, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon.
But there is a whole world of white wine flavor being produced in the cool-climate mountainside wineries.
One of the absolute best is Torrontés, the signature white grape of Argentina. The folks at Colomé know how to handle Torrontés and have produced some memorable versions of it.
The Calchaquí Valley in Salta, home of Colomé, has gained a worldwide reputation thanks in large part to the Torrontés grown there. Apparently the unique microclimates in the Calchaquí Valley are perfect for growing noteworthy Torrontés.
Colomé Torrontés.
Colomé Torrontés.
In the glass the wine is a beautiful pale straw color with aromas of roses, citrus and spices. The aromas make you think you are about to sip a sweet wine, but this wine is bone dry. I tasted some nectarine, citrus, fruit salad and fresh acidity. Everything was in balance.
This wine is perfect for sipping on a hot afternoon, but it really comes to life with food. It pairs with many different types of food, and each dish seems to bring out different flavors in the wine. This wine also comes in a convenient twist-off cap, making it easy to pack on a picnic or a boat ride.
Torrontés has been planted in Argentina since the 1800s. DNA research shows the varietal is a cross between the mission grapes of Galicia, Spain, and Muscat of Alexandria. The Muscat must give the wine its sweet aroma.
The grapes for the Colomé wine come from 30- to 60-year-old vines mainly from the La Brava Estate in Cafayate, at nearly 5,600 feet, which is considered the optimum elevation for this variety.
Once they reach maturity they are harvested and then hand-sorted at the winery. Selected yeasts produce a lingering, slow fermentation at low temperatures. The wine is aged for three months in stainless steel tanks to bring out maximum freshness. It spends no time on oak.
There actually are three Torrontés varieties: Torrontés Mendocino and Torrontés Sanjuanino are more suitable for fresh consumption, whereas Torrontés Riojano is the most widely grown and more suitable for the production of fine wines, which are fruity and dry.
Colomé practices responsible farming in the high desert vineyards of the Calchaquí. The winery supplements the region’s 2-6 inches of rain a year with drip irrigation, but uses only organic fertilizer such as manure and compost. In these high vineyards the grapes develop thicker skins to protect them from the intense sun. That produces robust grapes and fresh acidity. Day-night temperature swings of up to 20 degrees allows the grapes to ripen slowly and mature fully.
Winery: Founded in 1831, Bodega Colomé is one of the oldest wineries in Argentina. The Spanish governor of the Salta province is believed to be the founder. In 1854 the governor’s daughter brought the first French pre-phylloxera malbec and cabernet sauvignon vines to Colomé. Grapes from three vineyards planted that year are still used in Colomé Reserva wines.
The winery was owned by the Isasmendi-Dávalos families for 170 years before Donald Hess bought it in 2001.
Sitting hight in the Upper Calchaquí Valley, the property is a gem, featuring beautiful tasting rooms and a boutique hotel, Estancia Colomé.
Donald and Ursula Hess first visited the Calchaquí Valley in 1998, searching for the perfect terroir and the ideal weather to produce unique Argentinean wines. What they discovered was beyond their expectations: they actually found their second home.
Their vision goes beyond the winery to include the surrounding community. The Hess family contributed to building the village community centre and the church, and to the betterment of the school and the community housing. Colomé is the source of employment and income for most of the village inhabitants.
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Colomé produces more than 50,000 cases of wine each year, shipping it to more than 40 countries around the world.
Colomé is part of Hess Family Wine Estates, a family-owned, fourth-generation company with a deep commitment to responsible agricultural and business practices. It was founded in Bern, Switzerland in 1844.
The Hess Family Wine Estates owns seven wineries around the world, including the Hess Collection in Napa Valley. The winery in Napa includes 13,000 square feet devoted to the Hess art collection. Other Hess Art Collection museums can be found at the Glen Carlou Winery in South Africa and at Bodega Colomé in Argentina.
Colomé focuses on Argentina’s two iconic wines, malbec and torrontes.
Gumbo was a perfect match for Colomé Torrontés.
Gumbo was a perfect match for Colomé Torrontés.
Goes with: We had this gorgeous wine with gumbo, an outstanding food for this wine. Torrontés has become one of my wife Teri’s favorite wines. If the choice of wines includes Torrontés, she will nearly always choose it.
The lively mix of flavors paired well with the spice gumbo flavors. In addition to the usual celery, bell peppers and onion, I add some tomatoes and okra. I also include plenty of chicken, shrimp, crab and sometimes crawfish tails. A good dose of cayenne gives the dish some zing.
Of course, it all starts with the roux, a blend of oil and flour stirred constantly over a low heat until it turns a carmel brown. Don’t try to make gumbo until you have mastered the roux.
Torrontés also is an ideal wine to match with Asian, Indian and Mexican cuisine due to its sweet floral aromas of rose petals and flavors of white peach and lemon zest. I also would serve it with roast chicken, glazed fish, pork chops and cheeses such as Feta, Gruyere, Swiss and Asiago.

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