First Published Costa News Group June 2010

BODEGAS MIGUEL TORRES

A WELCOME RETURN TO THE WINES OF ONE OF SPAIN’S MOST PRESTIGIOUS BODEGAS!

I haven’t written about the wines of Bodega Miguel Torres for a couple of years now. I promise you this is not a knee-jerk reaction to the criticism I received once accusing me of being in the pay of Señor Torres, so complimentary was I about his wines. A serious wine critic must be impartial and I know that I am, and was being so when I was heaping praise on this bodega which in some ways may be considered more of a Spanish Institution rather than just a winery.

Bodegas Miguel Torres survived the dreadful troubles of the Spanish War (including heartbreaking vandalism of the building and the barricas which housed its super wines) and the subsequent depression here in Spain, whilst establishing a practically unheard of export trade, particularly in the USA.

Bodegas Miguel Torres is a shining example of how big can be beautiful – and this bodega isn’t just large, it’s huge! It now makes wines in several different areas of Spain, not only in its own backyard of Penedés, as well as in other countries, including Chile and the USA, where the current Miguel’s sister, Marimar Torres makes world class wines, specialising in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

You can imagine my delight therefore, when I was in Barcelona earlier this year, to be able to enjoy a tasting with Mireia Torres, Miguel’s daughter! This elegant, erudite, almost aristocratic and yet very charming young lady – certainly knows her wines and indeed, understandably has an unshakeable belief in them. Mireia has not only grown up with Torres wines but has of course studied wine too. Like many in the Torres wine portfolio, it’s an unbeatable blend!

Manso de Velasco 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon is their best wine from Chile. The vineyard from which the grapes were handpicked is 100 years old, the must (juice) has a lengthy maceration and stainless steel fermentation is followed by a year in French Oak. It’s a wine that speaks of super-mature, opulent fruit, subtle oak and bags of sunshine tempered by adequate acidity gained from higher altitude. NB as it’s from Southern Hemisphere Chile it’s roughly 6 months more advanced in its development than a European wine of the same vintage.

Perpetual 2007 is from Priorat and again is their flagship offering from this wonderful wine area where the steep mountainsides which are home to the vineyards are difficult to work but are so well drained. Also whilst the soils contain little nutritious material to feed the vines they are nevertheless full of minerals that make such an impact on the wines.

The vines for Perpetual are an average of 55 years of age. It’s a small production and the wines have a marked minerality with very dark fruit combining with spices, liquorice and some black pepper and for me just the faintest hint of the spray one might sniff when cutting a dark green pepper. It’s a big wine in the mouth (15·5% abv) and enough fruit, acidity and tannin to develop for 10 more years!

The high alcohol content surprised me. Torres is not known for abundance of alcohol (except maybe in their brandies!) and yet this is an unusually high abv (alcohol by volume). Mireia explained that over the last years all their wines are coming in with a higher abv – a natural result of climate change. There is more sunshine, higher temperatures and this results in more sugar in the grape – it’s the sugar that is converted to alcohol!

It’s a problem that is occurring to such an extent in Australia that some areas can no longer make good wine as the phenolic development of the skins (a crucial part of winemaking) is not keeping apace with the sugar development of the juice. Typically, for such a broad thinking bodega, Miguel Torres boffins are on the case with plans to make sure that this does not happen here.

For example their blends will be changing with more of the naturally lower alcohol varieties being in used to lower the overall abv. Plantings will be at higher altitudes, more leaf coverage will be encouraged and different rootstocks will be considered.

Mas Borras 2007 is 100% Pinot Noir – a notoriously difficult variety to perfect, but one that will reward the grower’s patience with some masterly wines. Grown in Penedés at about 500 meters above sea level in a specific vineyard whose soils and aspect to the sun have been carefully considered for this variety, the wine has acidity and tannin aplenty at the moment but with a lovely rich depth of fruit, again some liquorice and minerality too. Nine months in one and two year old oak and time in bottle in the cellar finish the wine. It’s a Torres classic!

Finally, for this tasting at least, we tried the wine that perhaps made Miguel Torres famous – Mas La Plana. The 2006 vintage is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, there was a dreadful downpour during the normal harvest time, but these grapes were harvested afterwards when drying winds had done a perfect job in making sure that the grapes arrived at the winery in perfect shape.

The juice was in contact with the skins for 4 weeks to extract all the colour, flavour and tannin that are required to build a wine to last of perhaps 20 years! At the moment dark fruits come from the depths of this wine, with noticeable tannin and some minerality but it is not the finished product. This wine is one to buy now and bury in your cellar for say another 5 years and then to taste and plan when you will imbibe the rest of the case. It’s going to be a wonderful wine!

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