I firmly believe that one of the best, most gratifying experiences in all of life is discovering delicious new wines on the authority of a friend’s recommendation. This is the story of how, thanks to my good friend Carolyn, I wound up setting foot in one of loveliest wineries on the planet and discovered a number of new favorites along the way.
Carolyn lives in Atlanta, and was in Dallas visiting recently. While she and I were catching up, I happened to mention my upcoming trip to Barcelona.
A quick word about Barcelona (and really all of Spain): I’m head over heels in love with the place. I lived there for part of my childhood, so the sights, sounds, and all of the unique cultural flourishes still feel like home to me.
Now back to Carolyn. Knowing of my deep and abiding love for both authentic Spanish culture and really good wine, Carolyn revealed to me that she has a friend whose husband is part of a family of winemakers headquartered just outside of Barcelona. Sensing my excitement, Carolyn graciously offered to connect us for a visit. Without hesitation, I took her up on it. I penciled in a stop to Torres Wines in my trip itinerary.
When I first made the plans to visit Torres, I underestimated the scale of their operation. I had no idea I would soon be treated to a behind the scenes glimpse at one of Spain’s (one of the world’s) foremost producers of fine wine. Torres Wines, while headquartered in Northeast Spain (specifically in Vilafranca de Penedes in Cataluña) is international in scope, with additional operations in both Chile and the U.S.
Should you ever visit Barcelona, be sure to save a day for a short train ride to the wine country. Trust me, it’s well worth it.
On the day we were to visit Torres, we set out on our voyage from Plaza Cataluña Station, and purchased a $5 ticket to Villafranca. The ride to this idyllic little town is an easy 45 minute straight shot from downtown Barcelona. Vilafranca has all the charm of the old Spanish villages, complete with stunning classical architecture and winding picturesque avenues. During the train ride, passengers are treated to an abundance of gorgeous scenery, passing through miles and miles of rolling hills and vineyards that dot the Spanish countryside. At various points during the voyage you’ll pass directly next to these vineyards, your face mere inches away from lush vines replete with glistening, plump grapes set to become masterfully crafted wine. It’s a lovely and memorable journey.
If you’re trying to get to Torres Wines, upon arrival at the Vilafranca train station, just step outside and take a taxi (should run you under $10) to the winery. The driver will know exactly where to go.
If (like me) you initially envisioned some small countryside winery, you’re in for a big surprise.
When you first enter the facility, you’ll be met with a warm reception in the form of a Torres staff member offering a paid group tour. The tour is fairly inexpensive and well worth it, especially since you’ll be offered an extensive tasting at the end. On this trip, since we were there as a guest of Sarah’s (that’s my friend Carolyn’s friend) we were lucky enough to receive our own private tour of the winery.
We did however, go through part of the main tour of the facility with a group, and I’m glad we did. The main tour is conducted on an elaborate train system that takes you through the caves of Torres and allows you to get a glimpse of how exactly this ecologically responsible winery is run. Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to learn a bit about Torres’s rich history. Five generations of the Torres family have lived on the winery premises, and the fourth and fifth generations currently reside there.
On the tour, you’ll learn how at the Torres winery they honor the women of the family by naming each individual cellar after a Torres woman. The cellars are a sight to behold. In addition to being named after famous Torres ladies, they are unfathomably vast and deep, housing hundreds of thousands of gallons of wine.
On the tour, you’ll get to learn a bit about the unique construction of the winery as well as gain insight into Torres’s particular methodology. Every wine at Torres is made utilizing complex proprietary techniques that both ensure a wine’s quality as well as minimize any negative environmental impact from production.
Now I know, dear reader, what you are currently thinking: “Did you just take a neat tour, learn some neat facts, or did you actually drink some wine?!”
The answer, of course, is yes! I’m happy to report we drank plenty of incredible wine, and we brought plenty home! While you can, in fact, find several Torres wines in the United States, during our visit, we were fortunate enough to sip and purchase a few wines only available in Spain.
We tried 15 wines at Torres. I won’t go into detail on all of them, but I want to hit a few highlights.
We started our tasting with a wonderful Sauvignon Blanc, the Fransola 2014, a white from the Penedes region. The wine possessed a delicateness and a dryness, each of which served to accent its sublime fruity notes. I love a dry white that manages a full flavor without any hint of overbearing sweetness, and the Fransola performs this trick expertly.
If you ever visit Torres, be sure to try the Milmanda. Even you devoted red wine drinkers will enjoy this beautifully balanced white wine that I think would pair marvelously with some serrano ham or a bocadillo. This wine is a 100% cask fermented Chardonnay that spends about 11 months aging in oak. The end result is phenomenal.
For those of you who love a rosé (and real housewives shouldn’t be the only ones allowed to enjoy a nice rosé) try the Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon. This finely balanced rosé is one of the Torres wines produced in Chile as as part of a special partnership called “Fair For Life”. Fair For Life works hard to ensure farmers and laborers are paid a fair wage for their indispensable contribution to the wine making process. It was nice to see Torres prioritizing the fair treatment of the workers that help create their delicious wine.
Now, if any of you wine snobs have ever turned up your nose at the Rioja varietal, I would implore you to try the Altos Ibericos Crianza 2013 Rioja, and prepare to have your expectations upended. This wine is available in the United States and often goes undiscussed, but in Spain, it has achieved a massive, widespread popularity. It’s become a staple across the country with good reason; if you’re looking for a flavorful, yet eminently drinkable Rioja to make sangria with or to serve alongside a light plate of pasta, this is the one to get.
Now for the crème de la crème.
Perpetual is a singular Piorat wine that has proven to be somewhat controversial within the Torres family on account of its unmistakably distinct flavor profile. The wine is something of an anomaly: dark, rich, and substantial, while managing to support a surprisingly elegant coalescence of deep chocolatey aromas and potent berry flavors . In my estimation, Perpetual is a memorable, worthwhile wine for its balancing act of strength and delicacy, and it unequivocally belongs in your cellar. It’s only available in Spain, so should you ever visit Torres yourself, be sure to stock up.
As for a Torres Wine I’m crazy about that happens to be readily available in the U.S., I recommend Mas La Plana. This rich Penedes wine is a robust red that would rival a Bordeaux in terms of style. Mas La Plana is 100% Cabernet, and all the grapes that make up this stellar concoction stem from a single vineyard and have spent 18 months aging in French oak barrels. A bottle of Mas La Plana makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, remarkably decadent drinking experience.
My absolute favorite wine was the Reserva Real 2002. These bottles are individually numbered (mine is #2300), and there are only a few thousand produced every year (hence the price tag of around $350 per bottle). It’s a huge wine, those of you who aren’t big red drinkers need not apply. If you love audacious reds, you’ll love it, and you’ll love pairing it with a sizable, succulent cut of red meat. The Reserva Real was originally made in honor of King Don Juan Carlos after his visit to Torres in 1995. It’s made in limited production from both Cab Franc and Cab, and then aged 18 months in new French oak barrels. The tannins from this wine are simply astounding; they linger and dance on your tongue for minutes past the initial sip. I’m so grateful I was able to sample and purchase this wine in Spain. I’m now currently storing my bottle, waiting for an occasion special enough to pop the cork.
All in all, Torres has some magnificent wines. If you’re interested in traveling to Spain, think about treating yourself to a quick day trip just north of Barcelona to visit one of the great wineries in all of Spain and in the entire world.
Let me offer a huge word of thanks to both my friend, Carolyn, and to Torres Wines, for the remarkable experience.