The Next Malbec

By Lettie Teague Wall Street Journal

Now that he has helped Malbec from Mendoza become one of the most popular wines in this country, Nick Ramkowksy, owner of the California-based Vine Connections, has turned his attention to Torrontes from Salta.
Same country (Argentina), different grape, region and color. Mr. Ramowksy, who founded his company in 2000, was one of the first importers of Argentine wine to this country and his portfolio includes some of the country’s top names – like Susana Balbo, Ben Marco and Luca.
I met up with Mr. Ramkowsky early in the week when he was just beginning a Torrontes barnstorm of New York. Mr. Ramkowsky was excited to introduce the native white varietal to a larger audience. “Up until this point we only had the Crios Torrontes,” he said, naming a popular and popularly priced wine by Susana Balbo.

He had several wines to show, at various prices ranging from $15 to $25 a bottle. The Salta region is where the Torrontes grape does best, opined Mr. Ramkowsky, though he knew he had a challenge ahead. The Salta region is very small (less than half the size of Burgundy) with very few winemakers (25 to date) and the vineyards are planted at very high altitude (6000 to 9000 feet). But Mr. Ramkowsky was undeterred. Torrontes, he believed, was the Next Malbec.

The Torrontes grape produces highly perfumed wines; their aromas are Muscat-like, though they’re quite dry with pronounced acidity. For first-time Torrontes drinkers this means there is often a bit of disconnect between the nose and mouth. But the wines are as refreshing as they are singular.

Of the three wines we tasted (Hermanos, Finca Las Nubes and Coquena) I was particularly keen on the 2011 Hermanos with its spicy-floral nose, absolutely zingy acidity and $15 price tag. It’s still only February, but a little Torrontes goes a long way towards making it seem like spring.