Wine: Always time for Argentine
In the aftermath of Christmas and New Year festivities comes an antidote to rich and heavy fare that is as refreshing and fragrant as a mountain breeze through a May orchard in full blossom -- it is called Torrontés.
Unique to Argentina, Torrontés is that country's emblematic white wine. Descended from the grapey aromatic Muscat of Alexandria varietal and the local Argentine Criolla Chica, Torrontés is fragrant with white flowers and a peach and mango fruity character complemented by a little spice, not unlike Viognier.
Most vineyards are well over 600m above sea level. Some reach 2,000m in the northern province of Salta near the town of Cafayate, the highest commercial vineyards in the world. These high-altitude vineyards produce wines with a purity and concentration of refreshing cool climate character, despite being located near the Equator.
Farther south, in the satellite wine regions of Mendoza city, Tupungato is recognised as producing top quality wines while the Uco Valley's high-altitude vineyards account for fresher and crisper acidity. San Juan is hotter and drier than Mendoza and is gaining a reputation for some of the country's finest Shiraz.
Food matches include Thai and Mexican spicy chicken and shellfish, smoked meats and mild to medium-strong hard cheeses. Get fresh with Torrontés.
1) Torrontés 2013 Crios, Dominio del Plata, Argentina 14pc
Lemon scents prepare the palate for an invigorating attack of pink grapefruit. Zesty and refreshing. Enjoy with ribbons of smoked salmon tossed in tagliatelle with chives and cream.
€14.30 from winesdirect.ie and Wines Direct Shop, Mullingar
2) Torrontés 2011 Andeluna 1300, Uco Valley, Mendoza 13.5pc
Grassy with lime zest and pith and tongue-tingling acidity. Match with a Thai prawn green curry.
€12.99 at Wines on the Green, Dawson Street, Dublin 2; Red Island Wines, Skerries; Deveney's, Rathmines and McCabe's, Blackrock
3) Torrontés & Chardonnay 2011 Domaine Bousquet, Tupungato Valley, Mendoza 13pc (organically grown grapes)
Crisp and dry in a restrained style, zesty lime on the finish. Gives spicy Cajun chicken wings a lift.
€13.50 at tindalwine.com. In Dublin: Next Door Off-licence, Kimmage, and Goose Off-licence, Drumcondra
4) Torrontés & Riesling 2012 Amalaya, Hess Family Estates, Valle Calchaqui, Salta Province 13.5pc
Perfumed with white blossoms and orange peel. Fresh lemon pulp, floral notes, lime and a mineral finish. Open with oysters.
€13.99 at Red Island Wine Co, Skerries; 64 Wine, Glasthule; World Wide Wines, Waterford; Egan's Food & Wine, Portlaoise and Bradley's, North Main Street, Cork.
5) Torrontés Reservado 2012 Callia, San Juan Province 13.5pc
Peaches and cream aromas. Full-bodied with white pepper and rich peach. Peppery finish with tongue-tingling zest. Snack with a tangy mature Hegarty's cheddar, slicked with mango chutney.
€14.99 at drinkstore.ie; McCambridge's, Galway; Deveney's, Rathmines; Whelan's Wexford Street and Gerry's, Skerries
6) Torrontés 2011 "Classic Argentina", Alta Vista, Salta Province 14pc
Aromas of fresh grape. Full-bodied and spearmint fresh with lemon peel. Experiment with creamy risotto of smoked chicken and mint.
€15.49 at Mitchell & Son, Customs House, Quay Buildings, IFSC, and Glasthule, Dublin