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A rendezvous with Miguel Torres Maczassek

Miguel Torres Maczassek  is miles ahead of earning his spurs. This  fifth generation scion of the Torres wine empire is accredited amongst other achievements, as being  the driving force behind their ever expanding  business in Chile. Now back in Vilafranca del Penedès at the Torres headquarters as Director General, Torres S.A. . Torres Jr. (as he is popularly known) is  assisting his father – the inimitable Miguel A. Torres, Chairman Torres S.A.  in developing new business strategies  for  world markets.

Recently when Torres Jr. stopped over for a few hours on a hopping visit to India, I was one of the privileged few to meet him. And it instantly brought back memories of my meeting with his father less than a year back in June 2014.  I reveled in the moment of probably being one of few to get this rare opportunity of   meeting  leaders across two generations of the same wine family in such a short span of time! It was opportune too,  as Torres has just recently been adjudged as  “World’s most admired wine brand”  by Drinks International magazine for the second time in a row.

Meeting helmsmen from two generations: with Miguel A. Torres (L) and Miguel Torres Maczassek (R)
Meeting helmsmen from two generations: with Miguel A. Torres (L) and Miguel Torres Maczassek (R)

My agenda however, of meeting Torres Jr. was a little different than rote. Having covered much of their wines in the preceding duration, I though of getting some gems on their brandies straight from him. With news about Torres brandies having broken into the top 10 rankings in bars  across the world , I had all good reason too.

Torres has five brandies in their portfolio each being distinct in a striking way. I tasted all these variants in 2014 when  visiting their cellars located amidst the enchanting Mas Rabell Fontenac estate. The three important points summarising their brandy production philosophy are:

  • Extensive use of autochthonous (native) Catalan grape varietals.
  • Use of base wines low in alcohol and high in volatile substances.
  • Use of  static (standalone barrels) and dynamic (solera) ageing.

The brandies in details are listed towards the end of this post. I have put these in image form for convenience of saving/sharing by right clicking.

The sixth floor lounge at hotel Hyatt Regency New Delhi offered a perfect backdrop with panoramic view of the Indian capital for our conversation . Here is what transpired:

The many moods of Miguel Torres Maczassek
The many moods of Miguel Torres Maczassek

Me: (Showing a photo on my smartphone of myself with Torres Sr. in Mas Rabell restaurant). Last year I started my conversation with your father by congratulating him on Torres being adjudged the most admired wine brand of the world. Should I call it a coincidence that I start the same way with you?

MTM: Coincidence yes, but it also means that you have been meeting the right kind of people! (Laughs) . Seriously, we have not worked towards any particular award and have been doing what we are best at. The award coming our way is of course a reassurance of our efforts.

Me: Coming  to another accolade, Torres has made it to the list of top ten selling brandies as per a survey conducted by Drinks International in 100 top bars of the world. Are you betting strongly on brandy ?

MTM: We’ve always accorded due priority to our brandy business since we started distilling in 1928. This recognition for the quality of Torres brandy is special to us as it coincides with the 150th anniversary of Juan Torres Casals our forefather from the  second generation. That said, our brandies have been receiving recognition over a period, through numerous other  awards  like the gold medals for Torres 20 in the International Wine & Spirit Competition (United Kingdom) in 2006 and in the Internationaler Spirituosen Wettbewerb (Germany) in 2014.

Me: I had the opportunity to visit you brandy facility last year in Pacs del Penedès and  also had the chance of making my own blend from different eaux de vie.  The brandies were quite complex and appeared in similar league as cognac. What do you think about this  perceived likeness to cognac?

MTM: Our brandies are certainly closer to the cognac style as these are aged for significant periods in  French oak. We even use the traditional cognac grape varietals in some of our brandies. But we also have a very distinct identity by virtue of using autochthonous Catalan grape varietals and incorporating  both static and dynamic (solera) methods for the production. This affords us an unmistakable style that the consumers   have been warming up to.

Copper Alembic (Charentais) stills
Copper Alembic (Charentais) stills
The soleras at Torres Brandy facility in Mas Rabell de Fontenac Pics courtesy: Torres S.A.
The soleras at Torres Brandy facility in Mas Rabell de Fontenac
Pics courtesy: Torres S.A.

Me: Asia is the biggest market for brandy if you look at the consumption figures for past consecutive years. How do you plan to promote your brandies in this region?

MTM: For one, many Asian brandies can be a blend of grape and non grape spirits. Hence  we are keen to highlight that our brandies are made in the traditional way i.e. entirely from grapes. We also like to highlight our advantage of being  blessed as a wine producer who can afford to incorporate French oak barrels that can cost as much as € 900  a barrel- a price  largely  affordable  to Bouilleurs de Cru (producers who uses their own wine for distilling brandy) only.  All these factors  help us in presenting ourselves in the right spirit to the consumer.

Me: Given that India is also a large market for brandy, particularly towards the south, do you have any brandy plans for India ?

MTM: Our current focus in India is on wine  though our brandies are already present in several Indian cities. In the Asian market we currently look to promote our brandies in China where the consumer is looking for novelty in the premium segment. We are advantaged by the fact that lots of Chinese tourists have been visiting Spain, thus establishing an initial connect. Nevertheless, we see good potential for brandy in several other Asian countries but would like to take a step at a time.

Trying my hand at blending selected eaux de vie at Torres brandy cellars
Trying my hand at blending selected eaux de vie at Torres brandy cellars

Me: Brandy is made mostly from white grape varietals. Why can’t it be made from red varietals in a similar fashion as a Blancs de Noir champagne?

MTM: White grapes have more acidity and lesser alcohol potential which is a desirable characteristic for making brandy. This is one of the reasons why we extensively use the Parellada varietal in making our brandies.

Me: How about producing a brandy in Chile where your footprint has significantly grown. Is there a possibility to make one-  for example from Chardonnay grapes?

MTM: In Chile we are already making Pisco which is similar to brandy but produced using single distillation method to preserve the native grape aromas- in this case Moscatel. The project was initiated three years back  in Ovalle (Limari valley), a dry region ideally suited for  Pisco’s production. and has been hugely successful. So much so, that our stocks have fallen short to meet the surging market demand.

Me: With the growing brandy demand worldwide, are you likely to face the  danger of depleting stocks like in the case of Single Malt?

MTM: I do not think so. We have sufficient stocks and are investing in newer ones as well. Our brandies have both mature and growing markets. What we do not sell in mature markets like in Spain, we sell in the growing markets. Hence there is always a balance where we can cater to the demand-supply equation.

The world of Torres Brandies

torres-5

torres10

torres-20

jaime

honourable

Out of the aboove, Torres 5, Torres 10 and Jaime I are available in cities across India at prices ranging from ₹ 2000.00 to ₹ 13,500.00 through their importers Prestige Wines and Spirits Pvt Ltd.  According to Sumit Sehgal, CEO Prestige, the most recent introductions of these brandies have been in the southern Indian cities of  Chennai and Puducherry, They expect to expand the ambit to more cities in the near future.

Col Joe
wirtten by: Col Joe
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