Torrontés Riojano cuttings were first brought to Australia by St Ignatius Vineyard in the year 2000 following extensive protocols by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service for two years. The cultivar was derived from a cross of ‘Muscatel of Alexandria’ and ‘Criolla Chica’. In the subsequent years, we pioneered the growing, production and commercialisation of the varietal in Australia.
This distinctive varietal, until now unique of Argentina, produces light-bodied, crisp wines with a distinctive floral aroma. Some people say it came with the Jesuit missions of the 1500s, others with Spanish conquerors in the 1800s, but nobody truly knows. What winemakers first noticed was its distinctively aromatic character (peachy to some, grapey to others), and its heady and attractive nature.
In weight and mouthfeel, it’s not unlike an Alsace wine, with crispness and richness at the same time. What winemakers next realised was that at higher yields, these qualities quickly vanished and the wine turned bland and boring – care was needed in the vineyard to avoid over cropping vines.
One of the secrets of Torrontés is harmony in the vineyard. Importantly, this includes carefully managing the canopy and not over exposing the berries to excess sunlight. Torrontes is grown in all the Argentine viticultural regions and the quality improves as conditions become cooler and growth less prolific. Pruning, irrigation and fertilisation must be oriented towards controlling yields. It is also crucial to find the right balance between acids and sugar, avoiding bland fruit as well as anything that would make the grapes overly ripe.
In the winery, Torrontés responds well to cool temperatures. Fermentation at 12-15oC over 15 days and racking is carried out at low temperatures, too. At St Ignatius Vineyard, we prefer to let the authentic flavours of the grape show through, without embellishment from yeast or oak.
In sum – This delicious varietal is a white grape, light bodied, and with crisp acidity; on the nose and palate it is distinctively flavoured and perfumed. Needs cool fermentation and low yields.