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Torres unveils “new” grape variety

Torres has rediscovered a forgotten grape variety, which makes its debut in the latest vintage of one of the Spanish producer’s top wines, Grans Muralles.

The Querol variety rediscovered by Torres
The Querol variety, which has been rediscovered by Torres

For the last 20 years, the Penedès-based producer has been on a mission to uncover and preserve native Catalan varieties, many of which were driven to extinction with the outbreak of phylloxera at the end of the 19th century.

Among the handful of varieties rescued over this period is Querol, which has been named after the village where the company found the grape following a response to one of its advertisements in a local newspaper.

Introducing the variety, Miguel A Torres, president of Torres, told the drinks business that it was not an easy grape to cultivate. “It has a problem of fecundity,” he explained. “The flowers do not produce enough pollen so you have millerandage, which makes the grapes more concentrated with very low yields.”

The discovery of Querol came just too late for inclusion in Wine Grapes, a detailed compendium of 1,386 wine grape varieties by Julia Harding MW, José Vouillamoz and Jancis Robinson MW, which was published last year.

Once a “new” variety has been found, the Torres team typically spends around six years cleaning the plant material before it can be used. According to research carried out during this period and enquiries to various universities, Querol is a distinct variety, rather than a synonym or clonal variation of any previously recorded grape.

Miguel Torres suggested that the “10 to 15 hectares” of Querol now planted at the company’s Grans Muralles estate in DO Conca de Barberà represented the only known examples of this variety in the world.

The variety has now made its first commercial appearance as a 15% component of the blend – alongside Garnacha Tinta, Cariñena, Monastrell and Garró – in the producer’s Grans Muralles 2009, which has just been released.

With a retail price of just over £50 and production limited to around 1,000 cases in the years when it is made, Grans Muralles represents a high profile showcase for the Torres mission

Torres' Grans Muralles estate in DO Conca de Barberà
Torres’ Grans Muralles estate in DO Conca de Barberà

to safeguard and promote Catalunya’s native grape varieties.

Although wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon Mas La Plana and Chardonnay Milmanda retain a prestigious place in the producer’s portfolio, Miguel Torres noted: “We haven’t planted one hectare of a French grape in the last 10 years.”

Indeed, as a figurehead in the wine industry’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and adapt to the effects of climate change, Miguel Torres argued for the importance of these native grape varieties as part of this effort. “All these local varieties are good for climate change,” he maintained. “They are more resistant to drought than, say, Cabernet Sauvignon.”

Looking ahead, Miguel Torres indicated that his company had other forgotten grape varieties in the pipeline, revealing only that they were red. “There are more coming,” he told db, but suggested that they were unlikely to appear as single varietal wines on the grounds that “we cannot go to market with all these individual grapes.”

Instead, Miguel Torres positioned Grans Muralles as a wine he is happy to “keep changing” in order to accommodate and show off these rediscovered varieties. “Grans Muralles is becoming our gathering point for all our Catalan grapes,” he concluded. “If it is good, it will go in.”

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