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‘It is too soon for China’: Miguel Torres

Major Spanish producer Torres is to focus on its retail operation in China with no plans to produce wines there, new managing director Miguel Torres has said.

Miguel Torres Maczassek, Mereia Torres and Miguel Torres Sr, photographed for Decanter in 2011

In a wide-ranging interview with Decanter.com, Miguel Torres Maczassek has set out his priorities as he prepares to step into his father’s shoes as managing director of the Penedes company next month.

Miguel Torres senior, who celebrates his 71st birthday in September, will remain as president of the group, while Mireia Torres Maczassek, Miguel junior’s sister, will continue her work as general manager and consultant oenologist of the Jean Leon winery, which is part of the Torres group, and of the newest Torres winery at El Lloar in Priorat.

Since Bodegas Torres was founded in Penedès in 1870, leadership has always passed from father to son.

Miguel Torres junior is the fifth generation of the family to head the group, which now owns vineyards and wineries throughout Spain as well as in Chile and California.

He has worked at various different levels of the group. From 2001 he was managing director of the Jean Leon winery, then became marketing director of the wider group, including the Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero operations.

He is currently executive chairman of the company’s Chilean winery in Curicó, which was founded in 1979.

While he stresses that innovation and research and development ‘are part of their DNA’ and he does not rule out setting up in other wine regions, Torres makes clear that for the moment this does not include China, where they already run Everwines, a major retail and distribution operation with over 200 staff and turnover of €16.5m in 2010.

‘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.’

At the same time, he says that the Torres operation in Chile is very much a work in progress. Experimentation with ancient varieties like Pais will continue, and new vineyard plantings in new regions are going ahead.

‘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.’

In the interview Torres discusses his relationship with his father and his sister Mireia – who he describes as ‘a great winemaker’. It will not be difficult having Mireia reporting to him, he says, as ‘despite formal positions, we work as brother and sister’.

And as for his father, ‘anybody who knows my father will know that “retirement” is very much a theoretical concept.’

Read the full interview here.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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