2018 Amalaya Blanco, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina
Wine of theWeek with Annette Tomei
Wine grapes thrive in the high-altitude vineyards of the Calchaquí Valley in Argentina. But few had hope of finding sufficient water for vineyards in the Cafayate Desert of Salta, Argentina. This super dry climate boasts a max of 150 mm annual rainfall (compare to the driest recorded year in Napa Valley at 316 mm). The name Amalaya translates to “hope for a miracle” (with regard to a successful harvest) in the language of local Inca natives. In this instance, hope was certainly rewarded.
Amalaya originated as an experiment at the Bodega Colomé and evolved into its own label in 2010. Both are brainchildren of Donald Hess and part of The Hess Collection. At Amalaya, winemaker Francisco Puga creates unique wines that express the high-altitude desert climate.
Amalaya Blanco is a blend of two grapes. Argentina’s most popular white grape, Torrontés (85%), is blended with Riesling, a grape better associated with the steep cool climate vineyards of Germany. The Torrontés provides aromatics of fresh stone fruits, moderate acidity, and a silky mouthfeel. It thrives in the high-altitude desert conditions of the Cafayete. The Riesling contributes its signature intense floral, stone, and orchard fruit aromas. Also, it is used to cold and challenging growing conditions, so the windswept chill of the Salta region makes it feel right at home.
About this wine
As soon as the bottle of Amalaya Blanco is open, the intense aromatics begin their siren call. Sweet scents of honeysuckle, ripe pear, and tangerine rise from the golden straw-colored wine. On the palate you’ll find juicy Asian pear, fresh melon, crisp apple, and a hint of jasmine and lychee. The mouthfeel is tangy and lush. The finish is clean with a wisp of minerality. Though technically a dry wine, the fruitiness gives the impression of faint sweetness.
Because of the perception of sweetness, Amalaya Blanco is a great match for foods with a spark of heat. The flavors lend themselves well to zesty ceviche or grilled seafood with chiles and citrus. It is also a perfect pairing for spicy Southeast Asian dishes – especially anything seasoned with a liberal dose of fresh lime juice and cool refreshing fresh herbs.
Amalaya Blanco is one of my favorite new wines of the summer. It’s a wine I’m happy to enjoy all by itself, but it also goes well with the way I love to eat – fresh and spicy! It can usually be found for under $15/bottle. And, the screwcap closure makes it easy to pour for Taco Tuesday and save the rest for delivery Thai on Thursday.
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