Cuma Torrontés ($13.99)
Calchaquí Valley, Argentina
From the producer:
"Sourced entirely from estate vineyards high in Argentina’s northwest Andes. This extreme elevation lends itself perfectly to organic viticulture. Hot days, cool nights, lack of rainfall and a dry shallow soil allow for minimal human interference to the natural growth cycle of the vines.
Vinification: All organic practices are carried over from vineyard to winery where the wines are carefully handled throughout the entire vinification process. Cuma is produced to be drunk young, therefore little oak is used in the winery; instead the wines are aged at cool temperatures in stainless steel tanks in an effort to showcase their natural complexity and deep fruit flavors.
The Cuma Torrontés shows a bright green/yellow color, the wine has aromas of rose petals and hints of jasmine and orange skin. On the palate, the wine exhibits fresh and floral fruit with a refreshing, bracing acidity. The palate flavors include fresh peaches and a floral taste that is typical with this grape."
Torrontés is a wine that flies below most people's radar. When we think of Argentina, Malbec is the grape that comes to mine. Torrontés is the most widely planted white grape there, though, and the wines made from it are aromatic and most appealing when enjoyed young. Cuma comes from some of the highest elevations, and as such, the acidity keeps the fruit in check. This wine shows both fruit and floral notes.
Bodegas La Caña Albariño ($16.99)
Rías Baixas, Spain
From the producer:
"Jorge Ordóñez is the United States’ most important pioneer for the Albariño grape and D.O. Rias Baixas, as he was the first person to introduce this grape and region to the U.S. in 1991. Told he would never sell more than 100 cases of Albariño in New York City, he persevered, and now owns a winery in the Valley of Salnés, the best appellation of D.O. Rias Baixas.
Named for the straw-like canas (reeds or canes) that line the shores of the Atlantic inlets that carve into the granite coast of Galicia, the winery’s philosophy is to produce a traditional, authentic, and serious Albariño, in the style of the artisan wines that Ordóñez discovered when he first arrived in the appellation in 1991.
When Jorge first travelled to Rías Baixas, the D.O. did not officially exist. What he found was a rich culture of family viticulture and winemaking. Most families had small plots of Albariño planted on pergolas built with posts taken from the mother rock – granite. Most of this Albariño was fermented and aged on the lees in large chestnut foudres.
Traditional dry farmed viticulture. Practicing organic pergola trained vines, cultivated completely by hand.
Hand-harvested and stored in small baskets. The grapes are sorted at the winery and pressed after a 12-hour cold soak, which helps prevent oxidation of the must and allows us to reduce the amount of SO2 used in winemaking. Destemmed and whole cluster pressing in a pneumatic press. Fermented 35% in 500L & 600L puncheons and demi-muids (second use through 12 vintages old), 65% in stainless steel. Sur lie ageing for eight months with bi-weekly battonage in both barrel and tank. The resulting profile of the wine is dominated by a saline, maritime, seaweedy quality that is balanced by rich flavors of ripe citrus. The saltiness is the result of the vineyards’ proximity to the ocean.
La Caña is a wine that Jorge Ordóñez and his winemaking team craft to demonstrate the potential that Albariño shows as a high quality, serious varietal. As Jorge was the first person to export this variety, he has a tremendous passion and appreciation for Albariño, and he decries the use of Albariño to make simplistic, mass-produced, and commerical wines.. La Caña demonstrates the complexity, intensity, and longevity Albariño can achieve when sourced from old vineyards and using serious winemaking practices."
If you haven't tried Albariño, this is the one to have first, as it's the most traditional in style. The salinity mentioned above is, in my experience, not so pronounced, but it gives a gentle balance to the fruit that comes through on the palate. This is an elegant, mellow wine that is a great alternative to unoaked Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio.