Castles and chapels; walled domains and places of contemplation and spirituality. Familia Torres's historical estates not only boast a rich architectural and cultural heritage, but also a key biological asset: the age of their vines.
Everyone knows that time is relative. And yet there is no consensus on what an “old vine” is or should be. To comprehend the essence of Mas de la Rosa, Perpetual, Grans Muralles, Milmanda, or Mas La Plana, to name a few exemplary wines made from old vines, we first need to understand the internal processes of the plant and how it relates to its surroundings.
80-plus-year-old red Garnacha vine with ripe clusters, Mas de la Rosa (DOQ Priorat), a Familia Torres property
The vine really comes into its own about three years after planting, when it starts producing grapes. Once it reaches 10 years of age, the plant is at its most vigorous, because its root system has reached maturity1. It remains so until around age 30 when the vine gradually begins to lose its fruit-producing capacity and requires increasingly involved levels of care. Less vigorous vines produce smaller, more concentrated clusters, resulting in higher tannins and more varietal expression.
Old Cariñena vine at harvest time, Grans Muralles vineyard (DO Conca de Barberà), a Familia Torres property
Over the years, the excessive vigor of the plant's vegetative structures adapts to the characteristics and conditions of its environment, gradually striking a balance between these and fruit production.
Old Chardonnay vine in full bloom, Milmanda vineyard (DO Conca de Barberà), a Familia Torres property
The passage of time affects the grapevines’ ability to handle climatic conditions; the older they are, the more sugar reserves they store in their trunk, arms, and roots, and the more resistant they become to inclement weather.
Flowers on an old Chardonnay vine, Milmanda vineyard (DO Conca de Barberà), a Familia Torres property
Furthermore, older plants have a fully developed system that lets them dig their roots deep into the soil where they can access additional water reserves. Clearly this represents a greater guarantee of grape health and ripeness in periods of drought.
Old Cabernet Sauvignon vine at veraison, Mas La Plana vineyard (DO Penedès), a Familia Torres property
Yes, they do need more attention and care. But considering the wines they produce, our old vines are clearly one of our most prized natural assets, with a sense of place that expresses the identity of our vineyards. Endurance and experience. Elegance and wisdom.
1 In reference to roots.