When it comes to white wines that are under the radar, inexpensive, easy to drink, and food friendly, Albariño and Torrontés are two that are at the top of my list. They are very different, but have a place on our table depending on our mood and the type of food we are eating. Albariño is a wine of great finesse and with a bright crispness. It goes well with lighter and more subtle foods, fish, chicken, mild cheeses, and lighter pastas in a white sauce or olive oil. Torrontés is more exotic with a lushness that is backed with a citrus finish. This wine is great with spicy dishes; Chinese and Thai food; grilled fish, pork, or chicken; nuts and milder cheeses. Albariño is from Spain and Torrontés is from Argentina. They are generally in the $10-20 price range. Along with New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and Oregon Pinot Gris, this price range makes them some of the best buys in flavorful and food friendly white wines you can buy. Here are two new arrivals. They are delicious!
Albariño is the name of a white grape grown in the Galicia region of northwest Spain. Its origins are a bit cloudy, but it has been grown in this area for over 500 years. The grape is also grown across the river in Portugal where it is known by a different name and is most often blended with other grape varieties. Up until recently, it was also used as a blending grape in Spain. However, after the D.O. (Denomination of Origin) was established for the area of Rías Baixas (located in the southern part of Galicia) in 1985, production switched to making the wine as a varietal (100% Albariño). It rapidly became an international favorite and plantings are now also found in California. (To read a review on a lovely Albariño from Tehama County in California click here )
2010 Vionta Albariño Limited Release Rías Baixas Spain
Light yellow in color this wine has a lovely perfume with hints of melon, citrus, and peach with a faint floral mineral undertone. It is finesseful and balanced with gorgeous fruit hinting of melon and citrus with a faint minerality. This is delicious wine that rates very high on the drinkability scale – Outstanding. $15 Best Buy Freixenet USA, Sonoma, CA
Torrontés is a white wine grape variety primarily grown in the northern part of Argentina. It seems to thrive at high altitudes and does well in cold, dry, wind swept conditions. It is now believed that it is related to the Muscat of Alexandria and the Mission grape of California. The latter grape was brought to California by Spanish missionaries and widely planted near the missions, hence the name. For a very long time it was the only grape planted in California, but today very few plantings remain. The Mission grape was also introduced to South America at about the same time. Interestingly, the Torrontés grape was long thought to be related to the Torrontés grape grown in the Galicia area of northwest Spain (the same area now noted for the production of Albariño), but that theory has now been refuted by DNA evidence. Torrontés became the most widely planted white grape variety in Argentina in the early part of this century and this trend is continuing. It is now exported to many areas of the world. It is very aromatic and to me is reminiscent of a blend of Muscat, Viognier, and Pinot Gris. (To read an earlier article featuring Torrontés click here )
2011 Crios Torrontés Mendoza Argentina.
I loved the 2010 version of this wine and this 2011 is a great encore. As I said before “Crios means offspring and refers both to my children and my label of wines that display loveable fruit flavors and excellent balance….And no oak – just a lot of motherly attention.” (To read the article click here ).
And, after all the motherly attention that went into making this wine, it is now crying out for your attention!
Light yellow in color, this Torrontés has a stunning perfume of lichee nut, muscat grape, and lime. The wine is supple and rounded with a gorgeous grapefruit tinged finish. Redolent with a gorgeous floral complexity showing hints of lichee nut, grapefruit and lime, this is a gorgeous wine that is irresistible and delicious now – Outstanding. $10.89 Best Buy Vine Connections, Sausalito, CA. 
Think of the warm weather of spring and summer that is just around the corner. Along with the soon to arrive 2011 rosés think Albariño and Torrontés. These two wines are terrific, but be adventuresome and try others as well. I will have future reviews of more Albariños and Torrontés as I locate more different ones. Stay tuned!