Torres wine and food festival
Torres executive chef Sergio Millet Corbera and Torres head sommelier Anna Manchon joined the Hyatt food and beverage teams and MMI for three very special events during February. A brunch at Traiteur at the Park Hyatt, a barbecue at the Hyatt Regency and a final dinner gave everyone several opportunities to sample excellent Catalan cuisine and an array of Torres wines.
Grapevine met up with Anna and Sergio early evening, in Manhattan Grill at the Grand Hyatt where they were putting the finishing touches to the four-course menu and checking the wines of the evening for a rare vertical tasting of the iconic Mas La Plana.
Sergio is the head chef for the Torres private restaurant, Mas Rabell, housed in a historic medieval farmhouse in the middle of beautiful vineyards in Penedes. In sympathy with the region, he specialises in Catalan cuisine and every menu is designed around the wine. Sergio said that many dishes are cooked over charcoal. The Catalonians are very keen on cod, rabbit and roasted vegetables like grilled spring onions with a Romesco sauce. He was impressed that the Grand Hyatt stocked Spanish Bomba rice which he used for the evening’s starter course with prawns. Mas Rabell is reserved for special clients and VIP’s ‘but everyone comes’ said Sergio. ‘We invite our friends’ said Anna ‘and all our clients are our friends.’
I asked Anna and Sergio what wines went best with traditional Spanish tapas and they advised choosing a versatile wine due to the variety of different tastes on offer. A rosé, a light Chardonnay or Sangre de Torro, a blend of Garnacha and Cariñena grape varieties that Torres has been making for over 50 years. To quote Sergio ‘sometimes wine without food makes no sense’.
Anna’s involvement with Torres started in their Bodego Torres visitors’ centre at the Pacs del Penedès vineyards in Spain. She says she learned a lot about attitudes to wine from customers during the tasting sessions and that Europeans in particular are improving their knowledge (as well as their enthusiasm).
Torres has a by-line; ‘The more we care for our earth, the better our wine’. I knew that this was being put into practice through the use of electric trucks and hybrid cars within the business and asked Anna more about the company environmental policy. She explained that this dedication to help combat global warming is something the Torres family are passionate about as they see the impact in their wine-making. For example, the level of alcohol in their fine wine, Mas La Plana that Torres has been making for over three decades, has risen from 12-14% and the harvesting season is getting earlier and earlier. “When you are working in the vineyards the effect of climate change is obvious,” she says.
We went onto to discuss the sometimes controversial topic of organic wines. I mentioned that sometimes they are perceived as not as good as traditionally made fine wines. Anna explained that Torres had followed organic viticulture methods as a matter of course for its wine-making and had avoided using chemical pesticides and herbicides in its vineyards for more than 20 years. They have wines that are certified organic within their range too, such as Nerola.
So which wine is their favourite? Much laughter greeted this question but both Anna and Sergio agree that it depends on the occasion. For instance a night out with girl friends and it has to be Viña Esmerelda for Anna; in fact her friends make sure this delicate and fragrant wine is on the menu in advance. Sergio enjoys Fransola, a Sauvignon Blanc which goes really well with salmon or goat’s cheese. Grans Muralles is a unique and unusual wine made with local Catalan grapes that they both recommended and of course Torres most prestigious red wine, Mas La Plana. This shook the wine world in the 1970’s when it achieved top ranking in a blind tasting in the Paris Wine Olympiad beating many famous names like Chateau Latour. Anna informed me that Torres has continued to adopt new technologies and evolve its methods of production over the last three decades to achieve the right balance for the wine-style with its terroir. Guests at the dinner that evening had a rare chance to compare the 1981, 1991 and 2001 vintages.
Sergio went off to check that everything was prepared in the kitchen and Anna joined the Manhattan Grill restaurant manager to help brief the staff ready for the special evening ahead.
I had arrived with an impression of Torres as a large company with wine-making interests around the world but meeting these two enthusiastic members of the team convinced me that a family-run ethos pervades its wine-making and determines its vision for the future.
Did you attend any of the Torres events? Please share your thoughts (in the comments below).