Ar­gen­tine wine to en­liven any vege­tar­ian ban­quet

Shanghai Daily - - SPORTS - Va­ri­eties: Key term: Where to buy in Shang­hai

Vege­tar­ian cook­ing in China orig­i­nated from the kitchens of Bud­dhist and Taoist monas­ter­ies. As cov­ered in to­day’s iDEAL cover story, vege­tar­ian dishes adorn the pages of some of China’s great­est lit­er­ary trea­sures in­clud­ing the epic “Jour­ney to the West” by Wu Cheng’en.

For more than a mil­len­nium, China’s vege­tar­ian food de­vel­oped into a so­phis­ti­cated art form. Skilled chefs cre­ate master­piece veg­etable dishes and are ex­traor­di­nar­ily adept at us­ing a va­ri­ety of protein-rich foods to im­i­tate the fla­vors and tex­tures of meat. Tofu and an as­sort­ment of fungi are espe­cially pop­u­lar in mock meat dishes.

Veg­gie-pair­ing

De­spite be­ing a com­mit­ted car­ni­vore, I be­lieve no meal is com­plete with­out veg­eta­bles. I ad­mire veg­e­tar­i­ans who for rea­sons of re­li­gion, health or com­pas­sion for an­i­mals ab­stain from meat. For th­ese purists and peo­ple like my­self who en­joy veg­gies, the pair­ing of wines with veg­eta­bles is an im­por­tant topic.

When par­ing wines with vege­tar­ian dishes, it is a good idea to fol­low a few tried and tested max­ims. The first is to pair lighter dishes with lighter wines and heav­ier or more earthy dishes with more ro­bust wines. Sim­ply pre­pared and flavored leafy green veg­eta­bles, bam­boo shoots, spouts and corn find com­ple­men­tary part­ners in light and lively white wines that aug­ment the orig­i­nal sub­tle fla­vors and tex­tures. More heav­ily sea­soned dishes and those that in­clude mush­rooms or fla­vor­ful soya prod­ucts are ap­pro­pri­ately served with heartier white or red wines.

In all cases, the fla­vors of the dish and wine should sup­ple­ment each other with­out one over­pow­er­ing the other. In most cases, whites are eas­ier to pair with vege­tar­ian dishes and one ex­ceed­ingly vegie-friendly white wine comes from some of the high­est vine­yards in the world.

Ar­gentina seems to have a unique tal­ent for adopt­ing un­ap­pre­ci­ated va­ri­eties that have nearly dis­ap­peared from the Old World and mak­ing them into New World won­ders.

Mal­bec is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple. When wine­mak­ers in Bordeaux moved away from this dif­fi­cult red va­ri­ety in the late 19th cen­tury their coun­ter­parts in Men­doza, Ar­gentina, grad­u­ally em­braced the grape and the rest is his­tory. To­day, Mal­bec is un­ques­tion­ably the flag­ship wine of Ar­gentina.

An­other va­ri­etal on the up-and-up in Ar­gentina that was saved from Old World ob­scu­rity is Tor­rontes.

The best Tor­rontes wines come from the north­ern wine re­gions of Ar­gentina, espe­cially Salta. To the south, Me­doza and San Juan Val­ley also make com­mend­able Tor­rontes wines.

The two most fa­mous sub-re­gions of Salta are Valle Calchaqui and Cafay­ate that bor­der on the An­des. Th­ese re­gions are home to the high­est vine­yards in the world rang­ing from 1,500 to over 3,000 me­ters above sea level.

The ex­treme cir­ca­dian tem­per­a­ture range — hot days and cold nights — is key to qual­ity Tor­rontes wine. Hot days with plen­ti­ful sun­shine and cool evenings re­sult in a long, slow ripen­ing of the grapes, es­sen­tial to mak­ing qual­ity Tor­rontes wines with greater fresh­ness, con­cen­tra­tion and com­plex­ity. Tor­rontes wines from other re­gions at lower el­e­va­tions may be pleas­ant thirst quenchers but they usu­ally lack the aro­matic in­ten­sity and acid­ity of the Salta wines.

Other fac­tors key to qual­ity are low

The most ac­claimed wines of Salta are made from the Tor­rontes grape with other aro­matic Sau­vi­gnon Blanc and Gewurz­traminer whites also pro­duced.

Aro­mat­ics is a wine term used to de­scribe white wines with ex­pres­sive aro­mas. yields and care­ful tem­per­a­ture con­trol through­out the wine­mak­ing process. Th­ese grapes are prone to ox­i­da­tion.

Well-made Tor­rontes are stylis­ti­cally fresh, aro­matic, with mod­er­ate acid­ity and a smooth round mouth­feel. On the nose they are of­ten quite sweet but pleas­ingly dry on the palate; per­fect as a re­fresh­ing aper­i­tif or paired with del­i­cate vege­tar­ian dishes.

In ad­di­tion to be­ing food-friendly, th­ese wines are usu­ally very good value. Even pre­mium va­ri­eties in Shang­hai usu­ally re­tail un­der 200 yuan (US$28.9).

Some­times, an­other white va­ri­ety, usu­ally Chardon­nay, is added to Tor­rontes for body or tex­ture. The INCA Calchaqui Val­ley Tor­rontes Chardon­nay, 2010 is an ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple.

Pre­dom­i­nantly Tor­rontes has a light golden yel­low color with green­ish hints and plen­ti­ful flo­ral and cit­rus aro­mas and fla­vors. The Chardon­nay adds weight and tex­ture to the wine while re­tain­ing the fresh and aro­matic qual­i­ties of a good Tor­rontes.

Con­versely, Tor­rontes is some­times added to a pre­dom­i­nantly Chardon­nay wine to add fra­grance and fresh­ness.

One fine ex­am­ple is the Cal­lia Alta Chardon­nay Tor­rontes from San Juan Val­ley, the se­cond largest wine pro­duc­ing re­gion in Ar­gentina af­ter Men­doza. This wine fea­tures a light golden color with most of the color depth con­trib­uted by the Chardon­nay, a lively cit­rus and peach nose with slight tinny or min­eral notes and nicely in­tense le­mon and lime fla­vors with good per­sis­tence.

Other good Tor­rontes pro­duc­ers with wines in Shang­hai are Alta Vista and Colome in Salta and Trivento in Me­doza.

Tor­rontes don’t age espe­cially well, so you should drink them young.

This is espe­cially im­por­tant in Shang­hai where the ex­tra travel and oc­ca­sion­ally sus­pect stor­age fre­quently pre­ma­turely age wines and rob them of their fresh­ness. A good rule when pur­chas­ing Tor­rontes is to pick noth­ing more than 3 years old. Due to their rel­a­tively high al­co­hol con­tent, typ­i­cally between 13 and 14 per­cent, and mod­er­ate to high acid­ity, they are best served well-chilled.

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