Interview: Miguel Torres Maczassek

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  • Monday 20 August 2012

Miguel Torres Maczassek, 38, will take over from his father, Miguel A. Torres, as general manager of the Torres wine empire on September 1. The fifth generation of the family to head the group, he studied economics and business at ESADE in Barcelona and oenology at Tarragona University. He subsequently worked in marketing at Danone and at Carolina Herrera perfumes before joining the family firm in 2001. Torres has run the Chilean subsidiary for the past three years.

Miguel Torres Maczassek

You’ve occupied a number of positions within the Torres group; now you will be at the helm. What would you say are the main reasons for the company’s success?

I believe there are three main factors: the first is our people. We have a committed team of professionals that share the values of the company. Our objective is always to be leaders in quality wines, but also to contribute to society using the Torres Foundation, or investing actively to prevent climate change.

The second reason might be that we are always focused on improving the quality of our wines, from the most affordable ones to the single vineyards. We do not make exceptions. We have a great obsession to over-deliver in every bottle.

Finally, after 142 years in the wine business, we are still 100% a family company. This gives us a long-term perspective and we are not driven by achieving short-term results. We are a self-financed company and every year we reinvest 95% of the profits back into the winery.

How do you see the future development of the company: consolidation of what your father has done, or opening up new territories?

Through the years we have seen that every generation of the family running the business has developed the company, but not exactly in the same way as the previous generation. However, all generations share a common vision about where Torres should go, and this is a great strength: we share a common vision.

I believe that the growth of Torres in Spain producing wines in Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat and Rueda has been very positive and complements the original DOs where Torres was traditionally producing wines.

Innovation and R&D are part of Torres’ DNA and we cannot rule out going to other wine regions if we find good opportunities to make quality wines.

What about China, especially given your retail presence there through Everwines shops?

Our main focus is on retail. We are planning to keep developing this business in China in the long term. Talking about production, in 2009 we produced some experimental wines in collaboration with Grace Vineyards called ‘Symphony’ series. However, it is rather too soon for us to start a winery in China by ourselves. The viticultural conditions are very different from Spain or Chile – I can say that we are only at the beginning of the learning curve to understand the potential of the Chinese climate and soils.

And across the Andes, what about Argentina?
 
Beautiful country and beautiful wines! But I still believe that Chile has a lot to show to consumers. Recently we have started to produce wines with Pais grapes – the first variety that arrived in Chile 500 years ago. It is an amazing project that brings to the front line a variety that was underestimated, and also helps many vine growers in the countryside. There are also very interesting wines made with Carignan in Maule and Cauquenes. We are planting vineyards in slate soils like Empedrado close to the coast... Chile still seems very exciting to me.

Since Torres was founded in 1870, leadership has always passed from father to son. Was it a foregone conclusion that you would take over, rather than your older sister Mireia?

Not really. In fact my sister Mireia is a great winemaker and she is doing a remarkable job leading our winery in Priorato and also Jean Leon in the Penedes. My background is more related with business, sales and marketing. The important thing is that the family remains united in both the fourth and fifth generations, and this gives us confidence for the future.

Mireia will now be reporting to you – a potentially delicate situation? For you? For her?

Not really. My sister is a great professional and despite formal positions, we work as brother and sister. I believe there have been major improvements in our wines thanks to her role as a head winemaker in the past and I believe in her key contribution to keep improving the Torres wines.  

Handing over power is notoriously difficult, particularly in family firms. Your father said:  ‘The best thing you can do is to retire.’ But he remains group president. Will he be good at taking a back seat?

Anybody who knows my father will know that ‘retirement’ is very much a theoretical concept.  You cannot really retire when you dedicate your life to your passion! However, he will probably be less involved in the day-to-day business, and keep a focus on governing the company as a shareholder. When we talk together about the changes to come, he always says that at least he will have a bit more time to spend with his grandchildren. I am happy for him.

You have just celebrated the birth of your third child and must move the family back to Europe from Chile before taking up your position as company head in September – a time of huge change. Is the prospect daunting? Exciting?

Yes, Miguel Sebastian Torres was born on 30 of July and seems to enjoy life, being adored by his two sisters. So far, moving has conflicting feelings for us. On one side I was enjoying the project in Chile and I am proud of all our people here who achieved great growth during these three years. I will miss many things in Chile, it has been a vital experience for us, amazing country, new challenges, family growth... On the other hand, moving back to Spain brings our old friends and family closer, but also new responsibilities. I grew up in the Penedes wine region and now, going back, it seems to me that it is the right time and the right place to be.

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