Torres pursues ‘something different’

Torres is advancing its exploration of new regions and “lost” grape varieties as the producer seeks to enhance wine quality in the face of climate change.

Miguel Torres Maczassek, CEO of Torres

Miguel Torres Maczassek, CEO of Torres

The Spanish company, which has also run a subsidiary in Chile since the late 1970s, is currently headed by CEO Miguel Torres Maczassek. Among his most recent projects have been the purchase of land in Chile’s southern Itata region, the championing of local variety País, and a Pinot Noir project in the coastal Maule area of Empedrado.

Meanwhile in Spain the family’s most recent move outside its Catalan base has been into Rías Baixas where Torres produced its first Albariño called Pazo das Bruxas in 2012. Meanwhile in Rioja a reserva level wine is due to join the portfolio this year and, closer to home, Torres continues to rediscover grape varieties, including Querol, which has now been incorporated into top end blend Grans Muralles.

Highlighting the 36 grape varieties recovered during this 30-year project, Torres confirmed, “there are six we are excited about.” In addition to Querol, he named Gonfaus and Moneu, both red varieties from Costers de Segre; Selma, a white grape from Penedès; a cool climate-loving variety called Pirene; and another that is yet to be named.

Several of these are still undergoing the required four year trials before they can be approved by the Spanish government, but Torres remarked, “We hope some of these varieties can help us in the future as Spain gets warmer and warmer.” In particular he noted the ability of Querol, Gonfaus and Moneu to retain acidity in warm weather.

Although the project is currently restricted to Catalonia, Torres remarked: “I’m sure we could do it across the rest of Spain, it’s very exciting,” as he stressed the urgency for his country’s producers to adapt to a changing climate.

Citing predictions that average temperatures in Penedès could rise by as much as 4°C during the next half century, Torres maintained: “The whole of Spain will have to consider how wine regions are going to evolve in coming years.”

Already his own company is making a massal selection of the best performing Cabernet Sauvignon vines from its Mas La Plana vineyard. However, Torres noted that this wine “shows better balance in cooler vintages” as he remarked: “Who knows, many in the future we’ll have to plant Monastrell.”

Pazo das BruxasTurning to the company’s recent step into Rías Baixas, he explained: “Our aim is represent some of the best regions in Spain and to try to have some of the best quality possible.”

Although the company is currently buying grapes from the Salnés and O Rosal sub-regions of Rías Baixas, which are then vinified using local producer Martin Codax’s winery, Torres confirmed, “the idea is step by step to have our own vineyards there.”

While stressing that the company had no plans to embark on European projects outside its native Spain, Torres noted that within this country, “We’re always looking for projects supported by a premium vineyard, a winery and a wine with its own personality.”

Meanwhile in Chile, where Torres spent several years before returning to Spain in 2012 to begin taking over the reins from his father, the company’s efforts to raise the prestige of local variety País have enjoyed growing commercial success.

First launched four years ago as “the first truly Chilean sparkling wine”, the company’s Santa Digna Estelado Rosé has seen production grow from 1,000 cases to around 25,000 cases.

In addition to helping preserve this grape variety, the initiative carries a significant ethical dimension that currently sees growers receive 260 pesos per kilo for their grapes compared to the industry standard of 60 pesos, in return for meeting stricter quality criteria.

In common with many other major producers, Torres’ recent vineyard acquisitions demonstrate its belief that Chile’s winemaking future is brightest in the south of the country, where rainfall is higher and many of the oldest vines can be found.

“For me, the best wines from Chile are still to come,” declared Torres. “Most vineyards are still planted in fertile valleys.” His own company’s exploration of more challenging sites is demonstrated by its long-term project in Empedrado, which is due to release its first run of just 200 cases in 2015, 12 years after the first vines were planted.

Comparing the steep, terraced landscape and stoney, slate-based soil to Priorat, Torres recalled the gradual realisation that it was not Garnacha that performed best in Empedrado but Pinot Noir. Having regrafted the 25-hectare vineyard six years ago, the venture was then plagued by birds, which destroyed several crops before the company took the costly step of netting each of its bush vines individually.

“I can say without a doubt that this is the most expensive vineyard in Chile,” remarked Torres wryly as he declared himself “extremely happy” with the eventual result, which has been internally benchmarked against many high-end Pinot Noir expressions from around the world. “For me it’s between the New World and the Old World,” he continued. “It doesn’t have a lot of colour but lots of acidity, and there’s good fruit too.”

Summing up the focus for the company’s ambitions, Torres remarked: “We have come to a point where we don’t need to increase volumes. More and more the projects of Torres are going to be based on wines we want to make. We have a good distribution network so we can make this wines come onto the market.”

Noting that 95% of profits are currently reinvested in the business, he maintained: “I believe that you should try to do something different. Every year we do hundreds of experimental wines. Some of them are just that, experimental, but others come into the market and are more special.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters