Torrontés and Malbec are Argentina’s best-known wine grape varieties, at least to those of us that are the focus Argentina’s export market. Of the two varieties, Malbec is definitely better known, but Torrontés is perhaps more distinctive. I remember my first taste of Torrontés years ago, I was floored by the floral aromas and flavors. Malbec, which originated in France, has found a home in Argentina as a varietal wine and can be dense and delicious. Torrontés and Malbec are both very good reasons to explore Argentinian wine. High-elevation winemaking is a third.
We recently received two wines as tasting samples that hit the mark on on all counts. Coincidently, both of these wines were on my list of wines to find because of my interest in the high-elevation wines of Argentina’s Salta province. I’m very excited to share these wines with you.
History and Elevation
Bodega Colomé was founded in 1831. By 1854 pre-phylloxera Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon brought from France had been planted at Colomé. Astonishingly, some of those vines still bear fruit today and are used in the production of Colomé wines.
Ownership of Colomé passed through generations of the original families until 2001 when Colomé was purchased by Hess Family Wine Estates.
When I think of high-elevation winemaking, I think of the mountain appellations of Napa Valley, the closest mountain appellations to our home. Take the Mount Veeder AVA for example, which is also home to the first Hess Family Wine Estates winery, where the highest vineyard lies at 2,400 feet above sea level. That sounds high to me. By way of comparison the elevation in the City of Lodi, in the heart of the Lodi AVA and a 20-minute drive from our home, is 49 feet above sea level.
But consider the elevations in Salta’s Calchaquí Valley. Vineyard locations can reach above 10,000 feet above sea level. Astounding.
High-elevation winemaking is unique because of the effects of decreased UV protection, cool nighttime temperatures and a host of other factors that are beyond the scope of this post, but let this tasting of Colomé wines at least introduce you to the topic and get you thinking about it. These wines have piqued my interest. You may find a future post on Pull That Cork on the topic of high-altitude vineyards in Argentina’s Salta province.
2016 Colomé Torrontés, Salta, Argentina — light yellow, with hints of green, in the glass. Generous floral aromas of citrus blossoms, candied citrus and lemon grass will catch your attention immediately. Complex floral-infused flavors follow, echoing citrus blossoms along with dusty minerality and citrus pith on the finish. These complex flavors float in an almost weightless body that finishes dry, with nice acidity. 13.5% abv. SRP $15
This 100% Torrontés is sourced from 30 to 60 year old vines located in the upper Calchaquí Valley of Salta province. Winemaking and aging took place in stainless steel with bottling after only 3 months of aging.
The most obvious food pairing for this wine is spicy food, be it sausage, Thai, Indian or Mexican food. Soft cheese is also delicious with this wine.
Torrontés may be overshadowed by Malbec, the variety most closely associated with Argentina, but it is Torrontés that is indigenous to Argentina. According to Jancis Robinson, in The Oxford Companion to Wine, the variety is a result of a natural cross of the red variety called País in Chile (it’s called Mission in California) and Muscat of Alexandria.
2014 Colomé Estate Malbec, Salta, Argentina — dense ruby with violet at the edge of the wine. Generous aromas of crushed flower stems, hints of asphalt and dried blueberries are followed by concentrated dark berry and ripe raspberry flavors along with dusty earth and cedar spice. The flavors are fruit-forward, but not sweet or too ripe in any way. Tannins are significant, but not rough, in a medium-body with a finish that is very long with both flavor and tannins. 14.9% abv. SRP $25
After tasting this Malbec, Pete commented that it reminded him of some of the first Malbecs he tasted years ago — versions that were flavorful, but not too ripe and had just the right amount of wood influence. In short, he really enjoyed this wine and so did I.
Because we tasted this wine on a warm summer evening, Pete poured himself a glass and then put it in the refrigerator, for less than five minutes, just to see how it tasted just slightly chilled. Delicious, is the answer. Pair this beautiful Malbec with grilled steak and you will be in heaven.
The Colomé Estate Malbec is a blend of Malbec from four estate vineyards, all planted at hard to believe elevations. La Brava Vineyard sits at 5,740 feet above sea level. Colomé Vineyard, surrounding the winery, sits at 7,545 feet. El Arenal Vineyard sits at 8,530 feet and Altura Maxima – Maximum Altitude – at 10,207 feet above sea level. These vineyards are home to what Colomé describes as “the world’s highest elevation Malbec.” And, to top it all off, the vineyards are farmed according to organic and biodynamic principles.
Thank you, to Donna White Communications for sending these delicious, high-elevation wines our way. They are delicious. How did you know I so wanted to taste these wines?