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For Two New Wines, Torres Looks to the Past


Thomas Matthews
Posted: June 30, 1999

Miguel Torres, who is largely credited with introducing international grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay to Spain in the 1960s, has turned to nearly forgotten traditional grapes for two new wines.

For the past 15 years, Torres has been researching, collecting and propagating traditional grape varieties of Catalonia, the wine region around Barcelona that the Torres winery calls home. Some of the varieties were so rare as to be nearly extinct.

The 1996 Grans Muralles is the first fruit of his labors. The rich red wine is a blend of four varieties -- Garnacha Tinta, Monastrell, Samso and Garro -- grown on a 235-acre estate set nearly 1,500 feet high in the mountains southwest of Barcelona. The property was once planted to grapes by medieval Cistercian monks.

The Grans Muralles has smoky, gamy aromas, deep flavors of plum and blackberry, an alluring, lush texture on the palate and a long finish. About 1,000 cases were produced in this first vintage, which will be available in the United States this fall for about $75 per bottle. Subsequent harvests will be larger and may include other grapes in the blend, such as Mando, Cua Tendra and Rosana.

Torres also grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and other international varieties in his vineyards in Chile, where he pioneered stainless-steel fermentation in the 1980s. There, too, he has discovered a piece of the past, in an old hillside vineyard planted to Carinena.

"We were just exploring, and we noticed these old vines up in the hills," said Torres of the property in Linares, south of Chile's major winegrowing regions. "We asked about them and met the farmer who owned the land. He was almost apologetic, because the variety was so unpopular and the yield so low. But we liked what we tasted."

The result has been bottled as the 1998 Cordillera, which also includes small amounts of Syrah and Merlot from Torres' own vineyards. The vibrant red wine offers vivid berry flavors with black pepper accents and makes a lively accompaniment to grilled meats. Torres produced about 2,000 cases of the debut vintage, which will retail for about $22 per bottle when it arrives in the United States this fall.

To learn more about Miguel Torres:

  • November 30, 1998
    New Plantings in Spain's Priorat Region

  • October 6, 1997
    Spain's Miguel Torres Plans New Line of Wines From Traditional Catalan Grape Varieties

  • September 30, 1995
    A Pioneer in Penedes

    To learn more about Spanish wines, read Thomas Matthews' most recent tasting report:

  • November 30, 1998
    Exploring Spain

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