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In This Issue
 In Memory of Emile Peynaud The great French oenologist and author dies at 92.
 Argentine Torrontes Revisiting an intriguingly aromatic white grape.
 Alta Vista 2002 Mendoza Torrontes Premium ($11) Lemon peel and heady floral scents in a full-bodied wine.
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In Memory of Emile Peynaud

Emile Peynaud, widely recognized as the father of modern oenology (wine science), has died at the age of 92, reports today.

The French scientist and author's career spanned 46 years, during which he wrote nearly 300 scientific articles and numerous books, two of which enjoyed wide popularity in the original French and in their English translations, The Taste of Wine (1980) and Knowing and Making Wine (1982), both of which remain key references for making and tasting wine.

For the full obituary by Oliver Styles in, click to

Argentine Torrontes

As long as we're talking about South American wine, let's stay with the topic for the rest of the week. Today, we'll re-visit Torrontes, a relatively obscure grape from Spain that has found a welcoming home in Argentina.

A fairly welcoming home, that is. Torrontes ranks as Argentina's No. 1 white variety, with more than 8,000 hectares (about 20,000 acres) planted. But the Argentine Instituto Nacional de Vitivinicultura - the regulatory body that governs the nation's wine industry - recently noted that plantings of Torrontes have been declining since 1990, with such "international" white varieties as Chardonnay (4,600 hectares in 2002) and Sauvignon Blanc (900 hectares) coming up fast.

This is consistent with developments in many of the world's wine regions, where market demand seems to inspire producers to go with the "safe" choice of easy-to-sell grapes with familiar names in favor of the less-popular, if more interesting, traditional varieties.

It's enough to make me quaff a glass or two of Torrontes as a simple statement of solidarity and support, and so I did. It was an easy "political" statement to make, as the wine I chose - the 2002 Torrontes "Premium" from Alta Vista - was a fine example, full-bodied yet crisp, delicious lemony citric aromas and flavors and aromatic floral scents characteristic of the variety, with an intriguing complexity uncommon in a wine at its low-midrange price point.

A second Alta Vista wine tasted, a lower-price blend of Torrontes with Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, Alta Vista 2000 Mendoza Cosecha ($8), was relatively lackluster, and I won't expend Internet bandwidth on a full review. It was drinkable, but soft and unexceptional, with overripe, funky muskmelon qualities, no real value even at the single-digit price. Go with the Torrontes Premium; it's worth the relatively nominal difference in price.

If you would like to comment or ask questions about today's topic (or other wine-related issues), you'll find a round-table online discussion about this article in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, where you're always welcome to join in the conversations about wine.

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Alta Vista Alta Vista 2002 Mendoza Torrontes Premium ($11)

This is a clear, straw-color wine, with a very appealing aroma that blends distinct lemon zest with a heady floral scent in the gardenia family. Creamy lemon flavors carry over intact on the palate, full and bright, with a rich, full-bodied texture and sufficient acidity for balance. A faint background herbaceousness appears as the wine warms in the glass, and there's a pleasant bitter-almond quality in the finish. U.S. importer: Rock Creek Wine Merchants Ltd., Bethesda, Md. (July 20, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: The strongly lemony character would make this one a natural with fish or seafood; its richness fared particularly well with my frequent cross-cultural food match for fuller-bodied whites, Cantonese-style shrimp with lobster sauce.

VALUE: This unusual wine's character and personality certainly justify the price point.

WHEN TO DRINK: With no track record for aging Torrontes, I would be inclined to drink it up young, while its luscious, forward lemon fruit is full and fresh.

"Torrontes" = "Tore-RON-tayz", with a double Spanish trill on the R if you feel up to it.

WEB LINK: Alta Vista's Website is available in English and Spanish and requires Flash:

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Check vendors and prices for Alta Vista Torrontes on,

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

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