Decanter recently attended an event hosted by Miguel Torres Senior to unveil Purgatori, conceived as a second wine to Grans Muralles, as well as to show vintages of Grans Muralles dating back to 1996.

Torres said the strangely named Purgatori (cue jokes about the experience of drinking it) is ‘conceptually’ a second wine to Grans Muralles, the well-known, single-vineyard blend of mainly Garnacha and Carignena with native Catalan varieties.

It originates, however, from a vineyard in Costers del Segre, a neighbouring DO region, and includes Syrah in the blend, along with a different peppering of native varieties. Set for launch at the end of 2015, the first vintage will be from 2012 and is expected to retail for around £25, less than half the price of Grans Muralles.

Only 3,500 cases have been produced and the approachable style, fruit driven and elegant with a lick of oak, will likely appeal to many.

Native grape varieties ‘our heritage’

The tasting event was an opportunity to taste back through vintages of Grans Muralles to 1996. The 2001 stood out, delicious in a cool style and drinking beautifully. It was also interesting to taste Querol and Garro, ancestral Catalan grapes that feature in the current 2009 release (20% Querol, 5% Garro).

The Torres family set out to revive ancestral Catalan varieties in the 1980s, placing ads in the local paper which called on grape growers to contact the company if they had vines they couldn’t identify in their vineyards.

Its appeal eventually led to the discovery and identification of 33 ancestral varieties, as well as a further 35 unknown ancestral varieties. ‘It’s a very time-consuming endeavour, and it won’t make us any money,’ said Miguel Torres. ‘But, it’s our heritage.’

The samples of Querol and Garro couldn’t be more different. Deeply coloured, with marked acidity and currant flavours, Querol is highly aromatic on the palate. Garro is softer and fleshier. Both add individuality to the impressive 2009 Grans Muralles blend, and are a vindication of the effort invested in seeking these grapes out.

Rising alcohol levels

Decanter columnist Hugh Johnson well described the essence of these reds as a ‘lovely, sharp juiciness’, but was concerned that the alcohol level of Grans Muralles has crept up a degree between the 1996 and 2009 vintages, to 15%.

Admitting that it’s worrying, Torres explained that picking earlier would mean harvesting grapes that aren’t phenolically ripe. The company is working hard behind the scenes to find ways to counteract the effects of climate change on its wines.

Most producers facing the same challenge lack the resources and R&D capacity of a company like Torres, so one can only hope that it succeeds in finding a strategy that others can follow.

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Written by Amy Wislocki