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Wine Legend: Torres, Gran Coronas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 1970

An outstanding year in Penedès...

Wine Legend: Torres, Gran Coronas Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 1970, Penedès, Catalonia, Spain

Bottles produced 54,000

Composition 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Tempranillo, 10% Monastrell

Yield about 55hl/ha

Alcohol 12.4%

Release price 1,650 pesetas

Price today €85

A legend because…

In 1979, a blind-tasting in Paris, the Gault-Millau Wine Olympics, placed great French classic Cabernets such as Châteaux Latour and La Mission Haut-Brion alongside newcomers such as this wine from Torres. Known as Black Label, the 1970 was made from young vines, but the wine still triumphed, launching Torres onto the international stage.

Looking back

The firm of Torres was founded in 1870, and in 1962 a youthful Miguel A Torres took over the winery. Forward-looking and open-minded, in 1964 he planted international varieties in some of the Penedès vineyards. The Cabernet Sauvignon cuttings came from Jean Leon, another Penedès pioneer, and it’s rumoured that its source was the Médoc: Châteaux Lafite and La Lagune. Moreover, some cuttings came from a nursery in Montpellier. Planting French varieties was a controversial decision, and even Torres’ father had strong reservations about the wisdom of planting Cabernet. 1970 was the first vintage of the Black Label, which from the 1995 vintage on was renamed after the vineyard, Mas La Plana.

Now fourth-generation president of Familia Torres, Miguel A Torres recalls: ‘The wine was so different, it immediately gained a reputation, especially by triumphing over some of the best French wines. What a lot of people don’t know is that it was my mother’s idea to send Mas La Plana to the 1979 tasting.’

The vintage

An outstanding year in Penedès as well as Rioja, 1970 offered an ideal growing season, although the crop was small.

The terroir

29ha of Cabernet Sauvignon are planted in the Pacs sub-region of central Penedès. The original plantings were on deep, yellowish grey-brown alluvial soils that are well drained and have a moderate water holding capacity. The soil is made up of layers of gravel, sand and clay. The elevation of 225m ensures relatively cool night-time temperatures.

The wine

The grapes were fermented in stainless steel tanks; indeed Torres was almost certainly the first Spanish wine producer to install them. The wine was then aged six months in new American oak, then in older barrels for a year more. It was not until the 1990 vintage that Torres decided to age the wine entirely in French barriques.

The reaction

Stephen Brook tasted the wine in 1993: ‘Fairly deep red but becoming pale and russet on the rim. Light liquorice nose, becoming attenuated but still attractive… still powerful but perhaps the fruit is in retreat.’

In 2008, Tom Cannavan noted: ‘Lovely old wine vegetal sweetness on the nose, notes of dried blood, truffle, prune and that echo of very sweet black fruit. On the palate lovely sweetness still, masses of clove and spice, and still a fine core of redcurrant and cherry acidity. Lovely soft, truffly finish.’

In 2015 in Beijing, Edward Ragg wrote: ‘Tertiary aromas of roasted meats, mushroom, leather, combining with barrel-matured notes of coffee, cocoa, chocolate, now caramelised with age… complex. On the palate a profound tannic structure, but still with this wonderful core of fruit coming through… Lively acidity, quite vibrant fruit – this wine is not “dried out” in any sense – with mellowing chewy tannins and a long, layered finish.’

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