Bodegas Torres launches the first Chilean wine grown on slate soil terraces

06 August 2015

Bodegas Torres presents Escaleras de Empedrado, the first Chilean wine to be grown on terraced slate terrain similar to that which dominates the landscape of Priorat, in Catalonia. When combined with the cool climate of the Empedrado estate, which is due to its location and proximity to the Pacific Ocean, this type of terrain contributes to the marked personality and quality of this wine.

The 2012 vintage of this Pinot Noir with its very limited production of only 2400 bottles will retail at approximately 100 euros per bottle and will be virtually sold out before going to market in November. With this first vintage, the Torres family brings to fruition a project in which Torres invested 20 years of effort and almost USD 4 million.

This ambitious project began in 1995 when Miguel A. Torres, the fourth generation and current President of the company, began the search for slate soil terrain in Chile (soil that the Chileans refer to as "piedra laja", or stone slab) with the idea of producing a top range wine of great personality inspired by the magnificent reds of the Priorat and Douro regions. After several years of searching Torres finally came upon a suitable terrain in the Empedrado valley, near the city of Constitución, about 400 km south of Santiago de Chile and 26 km from the sea. In 2001 the Torres family acquired 369 hectares, 25 of which were used for planting in terraces at an altitude of 500 metres at the highest point and with an overall height difference of 250 metres.

"We built terraces in slate soil to plant vines, which had never been done before in Chile, and we began experimenting with Priorat varieties, among others. However, the climate was too cold and the grapes didn't ripe, so we finally decided to try Pinot Noir, more specifically the French clones 667 and 777, which adapted perfectly to the soils and climate conditions", explains Miguel Torres Maczassek, General Manager of Bodegas Torres and President of Miguel Torres Chile.

The launch of Escaleras de Empedrado takes place ten years later than originally forecasted, mainly due to difficulties relating to the extreme nature of the climate and the voracity of the local wildlife. Not only has the vineyard been affected by recurring frosts, it has also had to suffer attacks by birds which have virtually destroyed three harvests despite the various mechanisms used to dispel them. This has compelled Torres to install protective frost control systems in the vineyards and counteract the action of the birds by covering each vine with individual nets, a measure that adds difficulty to the task of harvesting, which has to be carried out manually due to the characteristics of the terrain.

According to Miguel Torres, "Escaleras de Empedrado has been the most laborious project undertaken to date in the winery. It is the first wine to be produced on terraced vineyards in Chile and possesses a marked personality that is both fruit of the soils and, when combined with freshness and acidity, strikes a perfect balance between the old and new world”.

Empedrado is the first terraced plantation on slate soil to exist in Chile and is protected by the Denomination of Origin of the same name, which was established in 2011 in recognition of the geographical and climactic characteristics of the area as well as the type of soil. This 'stony land', as the name refers to, combined with the stepped nature of the terrain, has been the inspiration behind the name given to this exclusive Chilean wine: Escaleras de Empedrado (Stone Staircases).