Bodegas Torres reintroduces Moneu, an ancestral red grape, into the Penedès

News / 2016 · 06 · 01

Bodegas Torres is reintroducing the red variety Moneu into the Penedès on an experimental basis. A pre-phylloxera variety indigenous to this wine region, it was discovered almost twenty years ago near Querol, in Alt Camp, thanks to a project dedicated to reviving ancestral varieties. After experimenting for several years and determining its high enological potential, Torres has decided to plant the variety, using grafting techniques. Moneu will be introduced into the historical Castell de la Bleda vineyards in Santa Margarida i el Monjos, which the winery recently bought.

Moneu takes its name from Coster del Moneu (the “banks of the Moneu River”), which is located close to where the variety was found. It is the second ancestral variety that Torres is reintroducing into the Penedès, following the planting of Selma Blanca at its Aiguaviva vineyards a few years ago.  The winery has revived close to 50 varieties over the past 30 years with 6 showing great enological promise, including 4 that are indigenous to the Penedès. Querol and Garró are the other two Penedès varieties, which Torres already uses in the Grans Muralles blend, one of its leading flagship wines from the DO Conca de Barberà.

According to Miguel Torres Maczassek, General Manager of Bodegas Torres, “Given the Penedès's long winegrowing tradition, we are convinced that the region was home to many grape varieties before phylloxera destroyed the vineyards in the late 19th century. Later, when winegrowing resumed, many of these varieties were not planted again. We believe that there is evidence of varieties that survived phylloxera, scattered in different places, as shown by the vines we have found over the years.” He goes on to say, “It is really exciting to see how, with the help of winegrowers, we are gradually reviving the winegrowing heritage and richness of the Penedès and Catalonia in general.” 

Torres carried out tests at its vineyards in L'Aranyó, in the middle of Les Garrigues, where it has also planted Moneu. These showed the variety to be highly resistant to drought and high temperatures. The variety produces wines that offer an intense fresh fruit aroma with slightly floral and creamy undertones; they have a luscious palate, well-defined acidity, good concentration and smooth tannins.

Torres has also planted Moneu at its vineyards in L'Aranyó, in the middle of Les Garrigues. These test plantings showed that the variety is highly resistant to drought and high temperatures. Moneu produces wines that offer an intense fresh fruit aroma with slightly floral and creamy undertones; they have a luscious palate, well-defined acidity, good concentration and smooth tannins.

A project driven by the fifth generation                                                                   

Miguel A. Torres, Bodegas Torres's current President, launched the initiative to revive ancestral varieties over 30 years ago. The project is now reaching new heights, driven by the enthusiasm of the fifth generation, with Miguel Torres Maczassek as General Manager and Mireia Torres Maczassek as head of RDI (Research-Development-Innovation). According to Miguel Torres Maczassek: “We have an excellent team of professionals who are working on translating this project into wines that can be brought to market; very special, unique wines that will be impossible to replicate anywhere else in the world.

The process of reviving a variety is long and methodical: after locating an unknown variety, it is identified with the help of an ampelographer, who studies its leaves and shoots, and through DNA analysis. Then it is categorized, given a health check-up, propagated in vitro and planted in various experimental vineyards to study and evaluate its organoleptic qualities.  “We then select the varieties that are most interesting from an enological standpoint. If they're unknown, we give them a name, which usually makes some kind of reference to the place where it was found. Finally, we register the variety with the Ministry of Agriculture's official grape varieties register,” Torres explains.

In order to pursue a more in-depth study of ancestral varieties, Torres launched a microvinification winery last year at its Pacs del Penedès facility. Doing so will enable the Torres team to evaluate a variety's enological potential regardless of the amount of grapes harvested.  Torres also has several pilot vineyards where it grows these varieties on an experimental basis, located in Tremp, l'Aranyó, and at Mas Rabell near the town of Sant Martí Sarroca. Starting this year, the winery will also use the Castell de la Bleda estate, which has 16 hectares of vineyards, to experiment with ancestral varieties.