I am often asked to give general (and difficult) wine recommendations along the lines of — “what red wines do you like?” and my answer has been the same for the last few years — look to Spain.
Yes the wines of Chile are reliable and increasingly interesting, Portugal’s use of native grapes is always exciting and good value, France and Italy are still fascinating, but in terms of value, flavour and for breadth as well as depth, I recommend Spain.
Torres is an interesting example, easily one of the largest wine producers in the world (exporting to 150 countries), but they never stop striving and have never stood still.
Currently the company is run by the fifth generation but Miguel Torres Snr is still there to give a guiding hand and to inspire.
He visited Dublin recently and spoke at length about the need to give back to the society and to the environment — rarer sentiments than you would expect in the wine world.
With almost 2,500 hectares under vine they have vineyards in most of the major wine regions of Spain but also in Chile and California.
Like others they are committed to reducing their environmental impact (grape growing is a monoculture after all) but have taken it a little further than most with more than €10 million invested so far.
I visited some of their lesser known plots earlier this year,such as the 25ha Sauvignon Blanc Fransola vineyard in Santa Maria de Miralles in Penedès which is near the fascinating Gran Muralles (The Corkscrew, €95) vineyard where they are reviving ancient Catalan varieties that will thrive if the planet warms too much for native grapes.
This is a blend of Garró, Querol plus Monastrell and others and is dense and inky but also vibrant and fresh.
Fransola (€30 — Sweeneys Dublin, Joyces Galway) is Sauvignon Blanc based and has a delicious fragrant pear-peach character with good mineral undertones — one of my favourite Sauvignons.
You probably know the entry level Torres wines such as Vina Sol and Sangre de Toro which often appear on special offers but I have a few new Torres wines to recommend below plus two old favourites from smaller producers.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
Torres Coronas Tempranillo 2013, Catalunya, Spain — €14.99
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, Drinagh Skibbereen, Galvins, O’Briens, Ardkeen Stores, Molloys.
The Coronas brand was first registered in 1907 which must make it one of the world’s oldest.
Mainly Tempranill,o but with an injection of Cabernet Sauvignon this is solidly ripe with red and black frutis (blackcurrants and plums) with balanced acidity and integrated tannins. Try with winter stews.
Condes de Albarei Albariño, Rias Baixas — €14.99
Stockists: Celtic Whiskey Shop www.celticwhiskeyshop.ie Baggot Street Wines, Independents
This is one of the best value Albariño in terms of price vs quality with big bright peach and apricot aromas, a weighty mouth-feel and crisp lemon-peel tinged freshness on the finish.
This will go well with the usual suspects like fish and shellfish but also try with a Thai Green Curry.
F de Bodegas Los Frailes, Valencia, Spain — €12.99
Stockists: Stockists: Quay Co-Op Cork, Olive Branch Clonakilty
The Velazquez family have been growing grapes in their estate since 1771 and practice bio-dynamic and organic viticulture with a herd of sheep to make their own organic treatments and old Monastrel vines up to 60 years old.
Ripe cherry and red plum flavours, juicy and satisfying from the front palate to the lingering finish.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Jean Leon 3055 Merlot-Petit Verdot 2013, Penédes, Spain — €19.99
Stockists: Bradleys Cork, Independents.
Jean Leon owned the legendary La Scala restaurant in Beverly Hills and created this vineyard in the 1960s to supply customers like Frank Sinatra and Joe DiMaggio — it was sold to Torres in 1994.
Mainly Merlot, but with some inky Petit Verdot to add a little more depth, this has red plum fruit flavours, a refreshing ripe berry character and comes in a very stylish bottle.
Torres Celeste 2013, Ribera del Duero, Spain — €20.95
Stockists: JJ O’Driscolls, O’Briens, Ardkeen Stores, Egans Kenmare, McCambridges, Sweeneys.
This is grown at 900m above sea level and is 100% Tempranillo (as would be expected in Ribera). Cold nights and hot days give this wine admirable freshness and I liked its toasted aromas and chewy dense black fruits and prune tinged finish.
Torres Perpetual 2013, Priorat, Spain — €45
Stockist: The Corkscrew www.thecorkscrew.ie
Perpetual is made from old vine “vinos de guarda” Carignan and Grenache on a couple of spectacular hillsides in this most beautiful of wine regions.
Winemaker Mireia Torres is the company’s technical director but makes this wine personally — inky and rich with generous supple fruits and admirable elegance. A keeper.
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