John Stimpfig reports from the Star Producer Focus classes at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter with Smith Haut Lafitte and Torres...

Star producer focus: Torres

I got the impression that Miguel Torres Mazcassek was looking forward to this tasting as much as the packed audience assembled before him.

‘It’s not often I get to taste a vertical of Mas La Plana. Even for me, this is very special.’

And so it proved. Torres explained the history of the vineyard whose Cabernet vines were first planted in 1966 around the house in Penedès where his parents still live and he grew up in. ‘So I know this vineyard very, very well.’

The first vintage was in 1970, made by his father, was a blend of mostly Cabernet with small amounts of Tempranillo, Monastrell, Garnacha and Cabernet Franc. This was the game changing wine which went on to win the Gault Millau’s famous ‘Les Olympiades du Vin blind tasting in Paris nine years later. That extraordinary result immediately put Mas La Plana firmly onto the fine wine map – where it has remained ever since.

Torres Mas La Plana

Miguel Torres Maczassek with fans after the class.

In the early days, it was made using the traditional wine making methods of the time, which included yields of 50-60hl/ha and ageing in American oak. As Miguel explained the style and composition of the wine has evolved since then.

Today it is also comprised entirely of Cabernet Sauvignon. Yields have been reduced and, as the vines have aged, the complexity has steadily increased. Picking is plot by plot, selection is much more stringent and ageing is in new French oak (of 300L).

Last year, Mas La Plana also benefitted from its own dedicated vinification and vat room. No wonder the wines are getting better and better from this remarkable terroir.

Star producer focus: Château Smith Haut Lafitte

Last year, two significant milestones were passed by Château Smith Haut Lafitte. Its current owners Daniel and Florence Cathiard celebrated twenty five years of ownership, while the Graves estate itself recorded its 650th vintage.

smith haut laffite wines

The Smith Haut Lafitte wines.

There was plenty to celebrate and enjoy at the tasting which Florence Cathiard presented at the Decanter Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter. Not least because she had brought several of the greatest red and white wines which this dynamic pair had produced at this increasingly garlanded Grand Cru Classé château.

These included the sumptuous 2013 and 2010 whites, which were both built for the long haul. According to Florence, the blend is 90% Sauvignon Blanc with a bit of seasoning by the rare Sauvignon Gris. ‘We like to think of the Sauvignon Gris as our secret weapon.’

She also revealed that she and Daniel had chosen to present their top two red vintages from the last twenty-five years. Interestingly, Florence prefers the voluptuous 2009, while Daniel favours the more classical 2010. Both were utterly extraordinary and the audience was also equally split as to which of the these two magnificent wines was the best.

Shanghai Fine Wine Encounter

Florence Caithard from Smith Haut Lafitte.

And to finish, Florence showed a rare 1990 Smith Haut Lafitte, poured from Magnum.

‘This was our very first year in charge. We weren’t there for the harvest, but we were able to do the blending and elevage. Sadly, we have very few bottles remaining.’ The 1990 gave us some indication of just how well the 2009 and 2010 are likely to age.