Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

[Wine] Torres Priorat

DISCLOSURE: My visit to the Torres winery at El Lloar in the Priorat was provided free of charge by Pico Communication and Torres. Many thanks to all those who helped arrange the visit. 

The Priorat is a sun-baked, mountainous region inland from Tarragona and south of Barcelona. Climbing up through the mountains via the modern but very windy roads brings about a sense of awe. Abandoned terraces are visible, cut into the hillsides, once verdant with vines but now abandoned for decades. The combination of emmigration and the fascist rule of Franco took their toll on the Priorat, resulting in an 80% reduction in the area under viticulture. 

The DO Priorat winemaking region was created in 1954, but it wasn't until the late 1980s and early 1990s that things started to change. In 1985, the bottling of bulk wine was phased out and the production of quality wine was phased in. Then came the revolution. In 1989, winemaker Rene Barbier and a gang of likeminded winemakers bought land in the Priorat and introduced fine winemaking techniques along with French grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot. The world started to take notice, the modern reputation of Priorat wines was born and it has continued to grow ever since.
Stitch & Bear - Torres Priorat - Vineyards at El Lloar
The vineyards at Torres near El Lloar

The famous Torres winemaking family came to the Priorat in 1996, purchasing vineyards near the elevated town of El Lloar and the higher altitude Porerra. Over the next couple of years, they formed the vineyards, planted their vines, and built a small, but modern winery just outside the village of El Lloar. On the day we visited, the lush, beautifully arranged vines were baking in the vicious midday sun with breathtaking views out over the peaceful area. As we stood on top of the hill, surrounded by ripening grapes, I was overwhelmed by the sense that the Priorat is special place where time has been both forgotten, yet embraced.

Moving indoors and away from the searing heat, we tour the winery itself. It's compact, but modern with an optical sorting machine, stainless steel and concrete tanks on the ground floor, and oak barrels stored in the cellar, which is cut into the very hill itself to avail of natural climate control. 

Stitch & Bear - Torres Priorat - Inside the winery
Inside the Torres Priorat winery
Stitch & Bear - Torres Priorat - Concrete winemaking tanks
Concrete tanks at Torres Priorat
Stitch & Bear - Torres Priorat - Aging in oak barrels
Oak barrels at Torres Priorat
We head back upstairs, leaving behind the blissful coolness of the cellar. Our charming guide Irene settles us in high chairs with a magnificent view over the vineyards. Torres produce just three wines at this little winery (of which we tasted two), but each wine comes with a sterling reputation. 

First up is the most established wine, Salmos, made from a blend of Garnacha Tinta, Carinena and Syrah. Skin contact for up to 26 days extracts maximum colour and flavour, followed by a warm fermentation, before aging in French oak for 14 months. The end result is ripe and fresh with flavours of black cherry and well-integrated oak.

Then comes the Big Daddy wine, Perpetual, which is made from the traditional Carinena and Garnacha Tinta grapes, grown in both the Porerra and El Lloar vineyards. Perpetual benefits from both a longer skin contact time and a longer aging and reveals an intenser form of black cherries and black fruits when compared to its younger brother. It's a big wine, filling the mouth with flavour and body.
Stitch & Bear - Torres Priorat - Tasting overlooking the vineyards
Tasting wines overlooking the vineyards
Stitch & Bear - Torres Priorat - Torres Salmos and Perpetual
Torres Salmos and Perpetual 
Bodega Miguel Torres, Finca La Solteta, s/n 43737, El Lloar, Tarragona.
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