Spotlight on Spain: Torres Grans Muralles 2001

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Torres is one of the most important wine makers in Spain, having introduced many modern varieties to Penedes and having brought international grapes and an international style to South America (Torres has a notable winery in Chile) when World War II shut off access to European markets. Torres was also, amazingly, a pioneer in bottling his own wines, which helped him to take control of his own branding, which accordingly resulted in some serious market penetration in the North and South American markets.

Torres’ range of wines is truly eclectic and comprehensive, ranging from good value blends of indigenous grapes, to single varietal bottlings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and high end single vineyard field blends of indigenous grapes.

Catalonia as a region has seen some serious change starting from the 1950s, prior to which it originally made oxidized wines known as rancios and vinos de licor. Now, with Torres being a prime influence, Catalonia is making a huge range of wines, from ‘traditional’ to modern, using indigenous and international grapes and from large volume to small artisanal producers. Catalonia is truly a mash up of Spain’s schizophrenia.

This bottling is made with grapes grown in Conca de Barbera, a region just west of Penedes (where Torres is headquartered). Conca de Barbera is known mostly for producing high quality grapes for Cava producers. Soils here are chalky, alluvial ones over limestone bedrock. The region is sheltered by surrounding mountain ranges and produces wines mostly in a modern style, many from international grapes such as Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This wine, however, is not made with international grapes nor is it made in a cheap quaffing style like Cava. This is another beast. A blend of Monastrell, Garnacha Tinta, Garro, Samso, and Carinena, the Grans Muralles is an extremely unique sort of wine made from a single vineyard of the same name. The vineyard is 94 hectares, and 32 of these are dedicated to producing this wine. While the soils in this vineyard are slate and gravel, perhaps the most interesting part of the wine here are the indigenous grapes: Garro being a traditional Catalan grape that nearly disappeared, and the strange Samso, which according to Torres has an “intense pigment, good body and a magnificent structure.” Of course, the other three grapes are also indigenous to Spain, although have since spread internationally.

Putting glass to nose exposes bread, cherry, blackberry and deep scented violets. This is really pleasant and intriguing to smell. The palate was fantastic, with a quite soft and silky structure, lots of earth, underbrush and herbs, and a nice cherry and blackberry fruit presence. The wine is also very floral, and it is this wonderful aromatic component that is so enticing. I might describe this as a cross between a modern Rioja, a classic Bordeaux, and a bracing Southern Rhone/Languedoc wine – really an intriguing and lovely combination. I think wines like this are the exact sort of wines that make Spain exciting and that are a model of how a large producer can and should be a champion of the history and tradition of their region, not only keeping the indigenous grapes alive, but showing their full potential.

Excellent
$90 at BCLDB

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