Welcome friends to Wino Wednesdays; a place where the tasty and the tipsy meet! Every Wednesday (so long as I am sober enough) I will review the previous week's noteworthy alcohol consumptions-namely: wines, beers, and cocktails that stood out (for better or worse) and deserve some literary attention. I will include, whenever possible, photos and/or videos of relevant "nectars of the gods," and sincerely hope that you may find yourself enjoyably lightheaded and dizzy after this segment. So kick back, crack open, pour, sip, shoot, or chug, but always do so responsibly!
Ahhhhhhh summer is finally here. I just can't get enough of the sunshine, the invitingly warm weather, and all of the perks that come with it: more daylight, busier street life (and more people smiling I might add), creative summer clothing, and a general optimism that I associate with climactic warmth. While it remains a magical time of year, summer unfortunately no longer holds the sacred promise of earned laziness or endless irresponsible revelry that it once did. Despite the spectacular weather that we've been having in the Boston area over the past few weeks, I have not had the most stable or enjoyable time of late.
As silly as it sounds, Manchester United's loss in the Champions League Final elicited from me an angry drunken escapade as my fellow Reds and I downed countless pitchers of Paulaner Heffeweizen, Sam Adams Summer (why I ever liked this over priced and overly bitter beer I do not know), and numerous shots of Silver Patron as medicine for our sorrows. At a certain point, over-consumption of any alcohol destroys one's gastronomic experience, which is exactly what happened to me on that unfortunate humid Saturday; too much beer and tequila. Thus, I am omitting beer and cocktails from this week's edition mostly because I do not remember their specific tastes, but also because the idea of consuming any beer or tequila at this point disgusts me . However, I was able to persist through that game and the week in order to bring you part three of my weekly review alcohol review.
Thursday May 26:
Last week I mentioned in my discussion of the 2009 Brazen "old vine" Zinfandel that I had also purchased a 2009 Altivo Torrontes. My fondness for that unique Argentine white wine began in early 2010 during my first South American summer. December through March in Buenos Aires, Argentina can be absolutely stifling and oppressive. For those gringos who have not been, it is comparable to a Washington D.C. or New York Summer, but often more sunny and less bearable due to the rarity of air conditioning. Often, the only reprieve from the heat is a Fernet con coca-Argentina's chilly, mint-laced coca-cola cocktail, or, a delicious, cool white wine.
One deadbeat, sweltering Saturday in the middle of February in the spectacular physically crumbling neighborhood of San Telmo, Buenos Aires, I gasped out of my apartment on Avenida Independencia toward the local "Chino" (Chinese-owned grocery store) across the street for some sustenance. Our local Chino was larger than the average, and had a surprisingly well stocked alcohol section (all domestic). At nearly 92 degrees in 60 perecent humidity, in just a tank top, shorts, and my Havaianas, all I wanted was some refreshing white wine at a reasonable price. For 28 Argentina pesos (or around $7 US dollars) I purchased a Crios Torrontes. It may have been the heat that blanked my mind and caused me to grab the first white wine I saw, but in hindsight it was an excellent choice. That Torrontes, which goes for double its Argentine price in the United States, was utterly stimulating, and highly refreshing. In the mirage-inducing heat of my Buenos Aires apartment, it's hard for me to recall what I ate with the Torrontes, or even, in what span of time I downed the bottle in. I do however remember loving every sip.
Torrontes in general are highly aromatic, floral, and fresh. They pair with almost any lighter fare: fish like this-, sauteed vegetables, salads, cream sauces, and chicken, and are also the perfect aperitif. If you have the luck to come across an affordable Torrontes Riojano, (Riojan Torrontes-one from "La Rioja" region of Argentina) I highly suggest that you indulge. They should be drunk young (within 2-3 years of the vintage) and well chilled (between 7 and 8 degrees Celsius-44 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit for you Yanks).
Fortunately, I remembered this Torrontes in greater detail than my first. Last Thursday I prepared a "southwestern style" salad with: organic bi-color spring corn, slices of avocado, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, black beans, romaine lettuce, with a dressing of rice vinegar and sesame tahini (props to Alex Hammond for putting me onto this dressing). It was fresh, creamy, satisfying, delightful, and the perfect backdrop to my Torrontes, which was sufficiently chilled, having sat in my fridge for the past week. Even from a fair distance through the narrow opening of the bottle, I could pick up the hypnotic floralness of the Altivo Torrontes, which came from the famed Mendoza region. If not for my meal, its yearning bouquet of passion fruit, orange blossom, rose, peach, and pineapple, may have overwhelmed. But as it was, the Torrontes' concentrated, unrestrained qualities enhanced my salad. It was silky and welcoming in the mouth and finished with a subtle earthiness that gave it an admirable balance. In my never-ending quest to find excellent value (particularly in white wines), Torrontes have become a great friend. Little known in this country, Torrontes have been commanding increasing attention throughout the world. At 13 percent alcohol, it is no slouch in the "get your kicks" department, and because of its drinkability, can really sneak up on you.
As we all know, Americans love to rate things. As the majority of my readers are from this "Land of the Free," I feel that it is only appropriate that I include a numerical assessment of the gastronomic experiences I describe here. I will, thus, attach to the 09 Altivo Torrontes an overall rating of 82/100. So many superlatives and only an 82!-you might be saying. Well, I like to think of myself as someone with high standards, and though I thoroughly enjoyed the Altivo, it was not mind blowing and did not stand out as exceptional wines can.
In any case, I invite you all to try a Torrontes, or any new wine that you've never had before because what is life, if not an excursion into variety and discovery. Here's to you. Chin-Chin! Cheers! Salut! Kippis!