Confusion Corner: Torrontés, Terrantez, Turruntés

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Torrontés, Terrantez, and Turruntés…the name of these three grape varieties look and sound so much alike that even the most well-read wine students among us might be tempted to assume they are all the same grape—each using some local or dialect-specific of the same name.

However, let me set the record straight: these sound-alike grapes are indeed three unique varieties, and I am going to try to untangle the confusion therein. For starters, here’s the super-quick version of what to remember:

  • Torrontés—Argentina
  • Terrantez—Madeira
  • Turruntés—Spain

And now for the long version:

Torrontés: Torrontés—a white wine grape that produces a lovely, aromatic, fruit- and floral-scented white wine, is considered to be one of the signature grapes of Argentina. However…it’s not quite that simple. There are three related-yet-distinct Torrontés grape varieties grown in Argentina: Torrontés Riojano (the most widely grown), Torrontés Mendocino, and Torrontés Sanjuanino. (The label on your wine bottle, however, will most likely read just “Torrontés.”)

At least two of the three (Mendocino and Sanjuanino) varieties have been confirmed as native to Argentina, and all three have been determined to be natural crosses of Muscat of Alexandria (Moscatel). The other parent grape is assumed to be Listan Prieto (otherwise known as Crilla Chica, or the Mission grape).  The name Torrontés has been used in Argentina since the mid-1860’s; and the various versions of Torrontés (combined) now make it one of the top white gapes of Argentina—in both viticultural acreage and reputation.

Terrantez: Depending on whom you ask, Terrantez is either a rising star, or a has-been white  grape of the Portuguese island of Madeira. According to Jancis Robinson, et al, in Winegrapes, there are currently just 5 acres (2 ha) of Terrantez on Madeira, and much of that is newly planted. We also know for certain that the grape used to be quite widespread on Madeira, and many older bottles (19th and 20th  century) of Madeira sold at auction even to this day are labeled as Terrantez. The grape does, however, tend to have extremely low yields (which certainly may have contributed to its downfall).

Despite its rarity, it is (according to many sources) possible to get varietally-labeled Terrantez Madeira (see one example here) in various tasting rooms and wineries on Madeira. If you get a chance to taste one, you’ll find a lovely, delicate wine with a sweetness level somewhere between those found in Sercial and Verdelho.

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Turruntés: It’s easy to see why this grape variety is often mistaken for Argentina’s Torrontés…but Turruntés is actually a synonym for Albillo Mayor—which is itself perhaps best-known for being used (in allowed-yet-small amounts) in the red wines of Ribera del Duero. Turruntés/Albillo Mayor is also approved for use in the white wines of the Rioja DOCa and the Cangas VCIG (in Asturias). The grapes are known to create pale yellow-green wines with fruity (green apple) and vegetal (green-grassy) aromas.

It’s natural low acidity makes Turruntés an ideal blending partner with Viura/Macabeo. There are currently about 3,500 acres/1,440 ha of Albillo Mayor/Turruntés planted in Spain.

References/for more information:

The Bubbly Professor is “Miss Jane” Nickles of Austin, Texas… missjane@prodigy.net

About bubblyprof
Wine Writer and Educator...a 20-year journey from Bristol Hotels to Le Cordon Bleu Schools and the Society of Wine Educators

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