On 5 March as part of Valencia Culinary Festival we were invited to a ‘masterclass’ tasting of wines from the Torres Family Bodega. Introducing Torres, Sergi Castro their sumiller reminded the attendees that this is the bodega’s 150th anniversary although the family have owned parcels of vines in Conça de Barbara, Penedes, and elsewhere since the mid 17th century.
Now in the 5th generation of family control the first part of the history included one of the owners exporting wines to the Spanish diaspora in Cuba. Today Torres remains the Spanish bodega with the most recognition and wines found outside of Spain.
The second generation were responsible for developing the cognacs and brandies for which the bodega is also well-known.
But it was the fourth generation and this current fifth that has been most responsible for developing the vineyards, planting, adapting to climate change, selecting varieties according to soils etc and exploiting the families´ability to recognise exceptional parcels of land. They too have been responsible for introducing varieties such as Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon whilst retaining and developing the traditional Garnacha, Cariñena and autonomous vines such as Garró and Querol.
We commenced with Fransola 2018, a Sauvignon Blanc from deep clay and chalk soils, red in colour and moderately drained in DO Penedes. The vintage was harvested following near average temperatures but twice the normal average rainfall. As a result the harvest was a little later than usual.
Fermented in French and some American oak barrels the wine is pale yellow, clean and bright. Sauvignon Blanc from the Mediterranean can show notes of asparagus, grass and cats pee on the nose but more normally tends towards the tropical fruit notes and this wine is in the latter style, very fruity, with lots of white stone fruit. In the mouth it is clean and fresh, a perfect acidity balances with the fruit, very tasty and not unlike wines from the Bordeaux region. It has a long satisfying finish. (Price around 25€)
Moving on we tasted the Milmanda 2016 Chardonnay, DO Conca de Barberà. The wine takes its´name from one of the forts which dominate the local countryside and the vineyards at the foot of the walls were planted by the Cistercian monks from Foix in Burgundy originally. Torres have extensively investigated the variety and chose two clones (mainly 41B and SO4) to graft onto older root stocks in 1980 on a 15ha plot.
The soils here are full of active chalk and and the clones are resistant to this. The wines have 12 months ageing including around six months in oak and then a similar period with the lees in stainless steel tanks. It is similar in colour to the previous wine, with green flashes. The nose is still a little closed, but has hints of tropical fruits, pineapple and is buttery.
In the mouth it has golden apple fruit notes, a good acidity, is quite fat and unctuous and very well balanced. (Around 55€.)
The Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon DO Penedes came in two contrasting vintages 2015 and 2010. The planting of the vines themselves were the result of filial rebeldry, the father being adamant they would never grow the variety. However after the famous blind tasting when the top Bordeaux wines were bettered by wines from elsewhere and subsequently Chateau Latour lost out in a tasting the father was finally convinced they should sell their wines.
Planted between 1964 and 1979 on 72ha the vines are now well-established.
The 2015 was from a vintage with half the average rainfall and a little warmer year overall. It is deep ruby red with a garnet edge, lots of black fruit (blackberry, blueberry) on the nose and with green pepper. In the mouth it is a classic Mediterranean Cabernet Sauvignon, round and very full with jammy fruit. (Around 80€)
In contrast the 2010 was from a cold and wet year. Similar in colour but with a more marked edge, it nonetheless has long , fat, slow legs. On the nose the pepper is more marked with less fruit but what there is is more cassis, it is aromatically impressive, with hints of age and more toasty notes from the oak, cedar, balsamic notes and polished tannins. It is a wine to keep. (Not available from the bodega, specialist shops may still have bottles.)
Our final wine was the Grans Muralles 2015, DO Conca de Barberà and a blend of Garnacha, Cariñena, Monastrell Garró and Querol. It takes ts name from the wall surrounding the monastery of Els Portets and not the one in China!
From deep stony soils with schist (licorella) and paleolithic granite which have little water retention capability. The soils are unique in this area. 2015 was a dry year with half the average rainfall and average temperatures. The resulting wine is deep black cherry in colour with a fuschia edge. The nose is very expressive with the fruit of the Garnacha ripe and black but with specific seasoning from the Garró and the Querol.
On the nose ripe black fruit, also mountain scrub and herby notes. Eucalyptus syrup.
In the mouth It is like an explosive fruit bowl full of different cherry varieties washed with a generous portion of cherries in alcohol (guindas) and the odd cherry chocolate liqueur thrown in for good measure. The acidity is perfect, with round tannins, a solid structure, it is round with a youthful long fruity finish. A wine which is very much of the Mediterranean and with a style which extends up the coast into the Pays Catalans and Languedoc of France. ( A great wine with a matching price tab. 170€)
This was a truly educational tasting which vindicates the reputation of the bodega for top quality wines. It was also a fine way to end our participation in Valencia Culinary Festival which concluded on 8 March. Our thanks to Valencia Premium for the invitation.