Bodega Torres ‘Fransola’ 2014
*tasting note at the bottom
Tasting and reviewing a wine from Bodega Torres is an interesting practice in 2018. Despite being highly acclaimed within the industry, ‘Brand of the Year 2017‘ no less, they’re the biggest producer of quality wine in Spain and ‘big is bad’ is still a fashionable opinion to have. In fact, I remember sitting down to a dinner last year in Pla and having the sommelier wax lyrical about a wine made from ‘forgotten, indigenous Catalan grape varieties’ that a local producer was doing his utmost to reclaim. I asked if this was in anyway related to the ongoing project that Bodega Torres first put into motion in the 1980’s, doing the same but on a much larger scale and at great cost to themselves. I suspect he didn’t actually know, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t quietly enjoy his grimace and how his response suddenly had a edge to it; “No, nothing like Torres”. I think, along with rejecting the incredibly oxidised wine he’d gone to some length to explain, I may have inadvertently ruined his night.
Bodega Torres were created in 1870 and remain one of the worlds largest, family ran wineries. They’re founding members of the Primum Familiae Vini and have whilst based in Vilafranca del Penedes, also have sizeable estates in other parts of Spain, Chile and California. They produce a huge range of products, including a great deal of Spanish Brandy, and their success in volume is down to the huge quantities of well made, generic products that unfortunately also come to taint consumer perception of the brand; success at the bottom makes success at the top very difficult. Their investment into research and development over the years has yielded results that benefit Spanish oenology as a whole, whether it be the aforementioned vine nurseries, pioneering controlled fermentations, barrique ageing or being strong proponents of organic viticulture since 1975.
What a lot of people don’t realise about Torres is that there’s also a premium range of wines created from single estates around Catalunya. Mas la Plana is still the best Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve had the pleasure of trying, and Grans Muralles is a direct result of the work put into recovering indigenous varieties. I haven’t gotten around to trying them all yet, largely due to the high cost of many of them, but I found myself with a bottle of Fransola (they were giving them out at a shop… in exchange for money…) and an afternoon to dig into it.
90% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Parellada from the ‘Fransola’ estate, a high altitude vineyard within DO Penedes. Fermented 50% in stainless steel and 50% in a mixture of French and American oak, before 8 months barrel ageing. 27,000 bottles produced. 14% ABV.
Making a wine using an aromatic grape variety and any amount of new oak is always a tricky proposition, as even a small miscalculation on the length of ageing or toasting level can easily overwhelm and obscure the delicate aromas of the grape. In America, oaked Sauvignon Blanc is known as ‘Fume Blanc’ and is a standard style for the better wines of Pessac-Leognan and Graves in Bordeaux. Still, I’ve experienced far more difficult wines than vinous victories, so I opened the bottle with some trepidation.
A lovely lemon colour with the green reflections that is often typical of young Sauvignon Blanc. Then on the nose; wow. Hugely aromatic, with a bit of a power struggle going on between the fruit and the oak, with the fruit just edging it ; ripe lime, peach, pear and the herbaceous, crushed-nettle character of Sauvignon Blanc layered over toast, smoke and a touch of vanilla. This falls into balance a few minutes after opening and unlike many of these wines, I found myself coming back to smell it again and again. Rich and fresh on the palate, with the same lovely, unusual combination of zesty citrus fruit, herbs and toasted wood. Whilst lacking the elegance and finesse of some of the best white Bordeaux’s, this is very convincing and frankly, a delicious bottle of wine that has the richness to stand up to more substantial foods, and the acidity to remain refreshing and moreish. I’ll be getting another! 91Pts.
Purchased from Bodega Maestrazgo for 22 euros.