Super fun topic and breakdown of Muscat last week from these rockstars - guildsomm user, Wanda Cole-Nicholson, Dustin Chabert, Steven Washuta, Andrew Copeland, Mitchell Baker, Blake Leja and Mark Shipway. Zibibbo - fun to say and to drink!
This week: Criolla Fam
What varieties are included in this family of grapes, where did they travel from, where do they grow today and what do they taste like? Tell us a story!
Torrontés Riojano is one of the universally well known. The Criolla Chica originating from Spain and brought to the Americas, and the Muscat de Alexandria who’s origin is thought to be Egyptian got together in Argentina and had a baby that we know as Torrontés. Although two other strains are widely cultivated (mostly in Argentina) this one is the most well known for quality production as it has good body, acidity, and prevalent stone fruit and intense floral aromatics...although typically vinifed into a dry wine its prominent fruit presence can make it seem less dry in the glass to some.
Torrontes is the winner in the Criolla family, for sure, and Argentina is certainly where my mind goes to when thinking about Criolla. Probably more prolifically locally than Torrontes, though, are the widely consumed bulk wines are the "pinks", made mostly from Criolla Chica, Criolla Grande, and cousin Cereza. These are developed in new world soil. The Spanish brought them over and planted seeds, developing new varieties of vinifera not seen in the old world (maybe Randall Grahm was a actually conquistador in a past life). These pinks aren't necessarily high quality, just easy drinking and cheap, which is why they aren't really seen in export markets.
But wait, there's more. This Criolla Chica grape is everywhere in the Americas. California's mission grape, Chile's Pais, Spain's Listen Prieto (okay, so maybe these aren't all so American), and a billion other synonyms (every page of wine grapes is an adventure). Knowing this, maybe Torrontes isn't the star of the family. Winegrowers in Chile are getting a lot of press the last few years for pais, and these wines are showing up in the US market with more and more frequency as somms and consumers find them to be delightful with food or friends.
The Criolla family is making everything from super floral clear white wine from the muscat cousins to easy drinking cheap pink toned wines to some mind-blowing red wines meant for a high end restaurant table. Now, Someone pass me a bottle of Bouchon's Salvaje so I can dream of making natural wine from wild grapes grown in trees.