The world of wine is filled with wonderful words. There’s the poetic (mouth-feel, silky, supple) and the workmanlike (punt, brix, tannin), and even anatomical (body, legs, palate, nose). But the best wine word of all could be terroir.
Terroir (tair-WAHR) refers to the unique characteristics of the grape-growing land, and there’s really no equivalent term in English. Basically, the nature of the earth in which the vines grow manifests itself in the taste of the wine in the glass. Looking for a good intro to the taste of terroir? Try wines from Argentina.
While other wine-growing regions must rely on maritime winds to bring rain, Argentina’s prime wine-growing regions – Mendoza in the west and La Rioja and Salta to the north – get water from snowfall-fed mountain streams. From the lightest torrontes to the meatiest malbec, you can taste the foothills of the Andes. Grape varietals such as cabernet sauvignon, bonarda and chardonnay flourish in long rolling rows more than five thousand feet above sea level – some of the highest commercial vineyards in the world!
When you drink your next glass of Argentine White, see if you can taste that mountain river minerality. Look for it in the crisp finish of the torrontes, the country’s clean, floral, flagship White, and in the sauvignon blanc as a faint effervescence mingled with white grapes and stone fruit, and as a counterpoint to the chardonnay’s buttery vanilla flavors (while adding just a hint of tropical fruit).
Argentina’s Reds dig deeper, finding the darker, earthier layers in the terroir, with the warm finish of the high-altitude sun. Malbec boasts a rich darkness, with fruit, spice and a hint of toasted nuts. The cabernet sauvignons, gaining accolades worldwide with each new vintage, plumb the depths with black cherry and pepper. The rustic bonarda tastes generously of fruit mixed with an inky earthiness.
Argentina is making a dramatic mark on the winemaking world. Tell us about any terroir-influenced flavors or aromas you’ve discovered in the glass.