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by Fred McMillin
for November 8, 2000


"Pick of the Decade"


I recall wine critic Frederic Koeppel praising a $6 Santa Julia (Argentina) bottle as his Pick of the Decade.

I'm not sure which varietal was involved, but here's our $6 Santa Julia nominee for similar honors. In fact, the 1997 vintage won WineDay's Best Buy of 1998. It's Torrontes.

The Rest of the Story

Don Alberto Zuccardi & Jose Alberto Zuccardi

Founder Don Alberto Zuccardi (left) and his son, Jose Alberto Zuccardi, who has taken over the heavy lifting at Santa Julia Vineyards.

Torrontes? It was born in Spain, but achieved greater stature in Argentina. Master of Wine Jancis Robinson indicates it may very well become Argentina's best white wine. In our latest blind tasting, the 1999 vintage won Best Buy unanimously, so it's our...

Wine of the Day

1999 Santa Julia Vineyards Torrontes,
Mendoza, Argentina
Growing Conditions—Torrontes likes it high and dry—and sunny. Mendoza averages 350 days a year of sunshine. As to high and dry, the vines grow at elevations of 2,000 to 3,000 feet. with all that sunshine, there's not much water around except that from the melting snows of the Andes Mountains. It seems to work, since the total area of vineyards in Mendoza is about ten times that of, say, the Napa Valley.
Winemaking—The grapes are picked by hand in mid-March before the delicate flavors disappear. And, unlike Chardonnay, the wine is not aged on the lees (sediment) to avoid coarseness. Consistent with this, the fermentation is carried out in stainless steel at very low temperatures. What's the result? Let's see.
Tasting Notes—The Houston Chronicle's Michael Lonsford's words about the 1998 vintage apply just as nicely to our 1999 bottle: "A simply delightful, exuberant white wine...with a racy, spicelike flavor reminiscent of muscat, but without the enamel-peeling acidity of an Alsatian riesling." I frequently am asked for a non-oak inexpensive white for fish and fowl. This is it.
Importer—Winesellers (a first-class outfit)
Contact—Office of Yale Sager, (847) 679-0121, FAX (847) 679-2017
Price—$6 range


Watch out California. Argentina imported Torrontes from Spain, and now seems to be outdoing the Spanish with it. So why should the Golden State get its guard up? Santa Julia has planted California's most widely-planted red-wine grape, Zinfandel!


About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at either San Francisco State University or San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.



This page created November 2000