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Mas La Plana vertical tasting

by Tom Cannavan, 05/08

I have just returned from a few days in and around Barcelona, where I had been invited to join Miguel Torres and his family to the opening celebrations for their new single vineyard cellars.

It was Torres' single vineyard Mas La Plana that put the estate on the fine wine map back in the 1970s, when it triumphed at the Paris Wine Olympiad organised by Gault-Millau, beating all comers including Chateau Latour. Whilst Mas La Plana has continued for almost 40 vintages, Torres has expanded with several other single vineyard projects in Spain, including the range-topping Grans Muralles, from a vineyard cultivated since the 13th century and now planted to Monastrell, Cariñena, Garnacha, Garró and Samsó.

Grans Murailles is now Torres' most expensive wine at over £40 per bottle, and a vertical tasting of it and other interesting single vineyard wines follows in part II.

The new cellar is a stunning complex, housing not only the winery and barrel cellars, but also what amounts to an entire wine theme park. There are multimedia shows, a museum, tasting room and sculpture park, and a very nicely done sound, light and animation show that takes place within the cellars. Sited close to the town of Vilafranca del Penedès, it is a world-class addition to wine tourism.
  


   It was terrific to meet not only Miguel and his artist wife Waltraud (pictured left), but also their children, Mireia who is Winemaker and Miguel junior, who is Director of Marketing.

We were also joined by Miguel's sister Marimar, who runs the eponymous Torres' operation in the Sonoma Valley, and who had flown in for the occasion.

Though obviously of great significance for the business, there was an air of genuine family celebration at the opening, especially as the cellar is officially named the Waltraud cellar. Waltraud's work adorns the walls of several rooms.

As well as its design which sits 'quietly' in the Penedès landscape, Miguel also spoke with passion about the 12 million Euro building's ecological credentials.

These include 'bio-climatic' architecture that employs turf and water in the roof structure to require minimal energy for temperature control, and 12,000 square metres of solar panels that will generate around 15% of all the energy required by the complex. Indeed, with only a few years until he retires and hands over to the fifth generation completely, Michel spoke of his concern for the environment and for sustainability. He himself drives a Prius hybrid vehicle - one of more than 100 owned by the company. He has also been buying land at high altitude, not currently able to sustain viticulture, with an eye to its potential in 50 years if climate change makes the plains of Spain less suitable for cool-climate grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.

Mas La Plana

Next day we took a tour of some of the single vineyards, before heading to the beautifully restored Mas Rabell farmhouse, where Mireia led us through a tasting of six vintages of Mas La Plana, starting with that 1970 - the wine that put Mas La Plana on the global map.

The Mas La Plana vineyard lies in Penedès, not far from the Torres family home. At just 29 hectares, the vineyard is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and consists of yellow/brown loam and gravel soils over clay. There is a very low content of organic matter. The site is well ventilated, and enjoys a Mediterranean climate because of its proximity to the sea.

As you will see from the notes, that 1970 vintage blended 30% of other grapes with Cabernet Sauvignon, and the oak barrel regime has changed subtly over the years too. But I was hugely impressed by the consistent quality and very specific expression of Cabernet Sauvignon given to these wines by the Mas La Plana vineyard.

Mas La Plana costs around £23.00 per bottle, and is in some branches of Sainsbury's, Morrison, Waitrose, Fenwick's, Great Gaddesden Wines, Harrods, House of Fraser and Makro. See all stockists of Mas La Plana on wine-searcher.com.
    

the wines

Mas La Plana 1970
70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Ull de Llebre, 10% Cabernet Franc fermented in steel, aged six months in new American oak, then 12 months in second and third-fill French oak. Fading brown colour with brick to ruby at core. Lovely old wine vegetal sweetness on the nose, with notes of dried blood, truffle, prune and that echo of very sweet black fruit. On the palate lovely sweetness still, with masses of clove and spice, and still a fine core of redcurrant and cherry acidity. Lovely soft, truffly finish. The yield at this point would have been 50 - 60 hl/ha. 91/100

Mas La Plana 1981
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Mas La Plana, aged six months in new French and American oak, then 15 months in second and third-fill casks. From a dry year, though enough rains that vines were not stressed. 100% Cabernet for the first time, and yields becoming lower. Lots of brick on the broad rim, retaining some ruby at core. Earthy, truffly, very spicy nose again, with notes of Caraway seed, fig and clove. On the palate there is more richness and hints of almost minty blackcurrant fruit sweetness that the 1970, but the powerful, spicy core comes through on the mid-palate and that truffly, earthy quality. 90/100

Mas La Plana 1998
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Mas La Plana, aged 18 months in Nevers French oak. Over 30 days of the summer with temperatures over 30c. Good, solid, quite vibrant ruby colour at 10 years old, with some of that vegetal character of damp undergrowth, but a much more solid, though still spicy black fruit. The fruit here is very firm, with a liquoricy tannic edge, and plenty of grip. There's a raisined quality too, then good acidity pushes through giving this an edge. A layered, fascinating win, though it lacks a little of the 1981 and 1970's seductive charm perhaps. 90/100

Mas La Plana 2001
Sorting tables introduced for first time. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Mas La Plana, aged 18 months in French oak from selected coopers. Solid, dense ruby colour. Much more pure cassis nose, with hints of violet and red cherry, in a nicely lifted fragrance. Dry, warm year, again with over 30 summer days over 30c. The cedary quality of the oak begins to build, with nuances of Sandalwood and green peppercorns. On the palate this has a silky, mouth-filling texture and intensity, with real concentration. The very ripe, almost raisined quality is there, but this is juicy too, with a blackcurrant ripeness at its core. There's something a touch leathery and gamy. The acidity and tannins add a lot of structural backbone and some real bite in the finish, with that array of exotic spices and slightly espresso coffee quality of the oak adding a plushness in the finish. Very young, but terrific quality. 92/100

Mas La Plana 2004
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Mas La Plana, aged 18 months in French oak. A consistently warm summer after a cool spring. Harvest was actually two weeks later than usual. Bright but deep crimson colour. Very alluring, smoky, exotic incense-like quality to the oak here of very high quality. Beneath, the fruit is opulent, suggesting round, rich, fleshy red berries and ripe blackcurrant. There's a touch of that undergrowth vegetal quality in the background. On the palate this has fabulous concentration, with the supple, fine tannins immediately adding grippy weight. The core of black fruit pushes through however, with a good edge of liquorice and cherry skin acidity and then the spice and coffee-bean richness emerging in the finish. 91/100

Mas La Plana 2005
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Mas La Plana, aged 18 months in French oak. Warmer than average vintage, but lack of summer rain led to vine stress and yields down by 35%. Also introduced a new vertical pneumatic press. Deep, dense, even crimson colour. Again, that exotic, incense and joss-stick allure of the oak is the immediate impression, before a touch of green peppercorn and then solid, concentrated black fruit with great ripeness. There's a hint of something chocolaty too. On the palate this is very firm and very fresh and racy. There's a lovely cherry and plum-skin tartness, and then the palate broadens, blending smoky, fat black fruit and something much edgier, and crisper, like liquorice and black plum. This is very youthful, the slightly raw edge of the tannins needing time to soften, but it is an intense and very tightly-wound, powerful wine of huge potential. 93/100

go to part II - Grans Muralles and other wines.

See all stockists of Mas La Plana on wine-searcher.com.