The tower and the glory

With its new Rioja, one of Spain’s most in­no­va­tive winer­ies is branch­ing out

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Food & Drink - Jonathan Ray

ith 64 wine re­gions and more hectares un­der vine than any other coun­try in the world, there is more to Spain than sim­ply Rioja. In­deed, the coun­try’s lead­ing fam­ily-owned pro­ducer, Tor­res, which has grown grapes in Cat­alo­nia since the 17th cen­tury and pro­duces about three mil­lion cases of wine and one mil­lion of brandy each year from es­tates in Costers del Se­gre, Ju­milla, Penedès, Pri­o­rat, Rib­era del Duero and Toro (not to men­tion Cal­i­for­nia, Chile, China and In­dia), has only now got round to in­vest­ing in Rioja. De­tails of the ex­pan­sion are due to be an­nounced shortly.

“The time is right for this move,” says Miguel A Tor­res, the ur­bane and cel­e­brated fourth-gen­er­a­tion head of the com­pany. “But I don’t want us to spread our­selves too thinly. We cur­rently make about 40 dif­fer­ent wines and brandies each year and I want to know and re­mem­ber each one. Be­sides, one shouldn’t be too busy, life is meant to be en­joyed.”

Tor­res the man and Tor­res the win­ery have been show­ered with awards and ac­co­lades by the wine press, in­clud­ing Man of the Year ( De­canter), Best Euro­pean Win­ery of the Year ( Wine En­thu­si­ast) and Most Im­por­tant Win­ery in Spain ( Wine Spec­ta­tor). This year the com­pany cel­e­brates an in­ter­est­ing “tre­ble”: the launch of Sal­mos, its first-ever pre­mium red from Pri­o­rat; the 100th vin­tage of one of its best-sell­ers, the Tem­pranillo/ Caber­net blend, Coronas; and its im­pend­ing move into Spain’s best-known wine re­gion.

“We can only do what we do be­cause we are a fam­ily busi­ness,” says Tor­res. “It al­lows us to think long term, and to be both in­no­va­tive and tra­di­tional. For ex­am­ple, we lost money on one of our projects for nine con­sec­u­tive years, fi­nally mak­ing our first profit

Wlast year. We couldn’t do that on the stock mar­ket.”

Un­usu­ally, the com­pany man­ages to be as well-re­garded for its cheaper wines — such as the easy-drink­ing whites Viña Sol (which sells for about £4.40) and Viña Es­mer­alda (£5.99) and the mor­eish red, San­gre de Toro (£5.59) — as for its ex­pen­sive ones such as the sin­gle vine­yard, 100 per cent Caber­net Sauvi­gnon, Mas La Plana (£19.99) and Grans Mu­ralles (£45.50), its fa­bled blend of in­dige­nous Cata­lan va­ri­eties.

Tor­res’s son (pic­tured above), who, un­sur­pris­ingly, is also called Miguel, over­sees the com­pany’s mar­ket­ing and I ask him why, af­ter all this time, the la­bel is mov­ing into Rioja. What will it give them that they don’t have al­ready?

“Spain is where our heart lies, de­spite our ex­cur­sions to Chile and be­yond,” he says. “Re­cently, we’ve de­cided that as con­sumers learn more about Span­ish wines and look for more spe­cific ex­am­ples, so we need to broaden our range by de­vel­op­ing wines in other re­gions. Most peo­ple as­so­ci­ate Tor­res with Spain in gen­eral, rather than with Cat­alo­nia in par­tic­u­lar, and it doesn’t seem to di­lute our mes­sage by go­ing else­where. And in some ways this move was in­evitable, since Rioja is our coun­try’s most fa­mous re­gion.”

This de­vel­op­ment is some­thing of an irony, given that it is largely thanks to Tor­res that con­sumers dared to look be­yond Rioja for fine Span­ish wine in the first place. It was one of the pi­o­neers of “main­stream” grapes such as Chardon­nay, Ries­ling and Mer­lot, and one of the first to pro­mote Caber­net Sauvi­gnon as a ma­jor Span­ish variety — thanks to wines such as Gran Coronas and Mas La Plana — and in con­cen­trat­ing on in­dige­nous Cata­lan va­ri­eties such as Par­el­lada, Monas­trell, Garró and Samsó, Tor­res has vir­tu­ally ig­nored Rioja’s own grape, Tem­pranillo. Only one of its wines is made from that variety.

Tor­res is well-known for its in­no­va­tion: it was the first com­pany in Spain to mar­ket wines un­der screw-cap; it was the first Span­ish com­pany to move into the pro­duc­tion of Chilean wine and it was the first to demon­strate that Penedès could pro­duce far more than just cava.

“Our wines are all very dif­fer­ent,” says Miguel the younger. “Each one talks of the land it’s from and that won’t change in Rioja. Our phi­los­o­phy re­mains the same: to make good wine that is fairly priced and to turn ev­ery cus­tomer into a friend.”

jonathan.ray@tele­graph.co.uk

Cask force: Miguel Tor­res the younger, here with his sis­ter, Mireia, in the cel­lars at the Pacs Win­ery in Cat­alo­nia, is a fifth­gen­er­a­tion wine­maker

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