Pirene 2020, a new ancestral wine by Familia Torres from the foothills of the Pyrenees

15 July 2022


Familia Torres presents Pirene 2020, the latest wine made under the auspices of the project to recover ancestral varieties, which the family winery began almost 40 years ago. Initially conceived as a way of preserving the winemaking heritage of Catalonia, it now also offers opportunities in terms of climate change adaptation. This very limited-production experimental wine is made entirely from the eponymous red variety grown in the Sant Miquel de Tremp vineyard in the foothills of the Pyrenees and is aimed at fine dining establishments.  

Pirene is one of many unknown varieties which existed in Catalonia prior to the arrival of phylloxera, the blight that devastated European vineyards and led to the disappearance of many of these vines, although some did manage to survive. Since the 1980s, Familia Torres has rediscovered more than 50 lost varieties and committed vast resources to bringing them back, with a focus on those that display the greatest oenological potential and capacity to adapt to the high temperatures and drought caused by global warming.     

After many years of research, field studies, and micro-vinifications, the technical team determined that Pirene attains its finest expression in high-altitude vineyards. In fact, the grape owes its name to the mountains where it now grows. Familia Torres planted the variety at its highest estate, located in Tremp, in the county of Pallars Jussà (Lleida), at an average elevation of 950 metres above sea level. Here Pirene matures gradually, taking the time it needs to reach optimal ripeness by mid-October. Most years, the variety is picked last, closing the harvest season at the Familia Torres vineyards in Catalonia.  

Pirene 2020 is the first wine made entirely from grapes grown in the Sant Miquel de Tremp vineyard, a Familia Torres property since the late 1990s.  The wine is made at the Purgatori winery in Costers del Segre, helmed by winemaker David Barriche, using a gentle process to preserve the essence of the variety and emphasize its elegance and aromatic intensity. The first six months of 2020 were rainy, but high temperatures in late summer allowed the grapes to attain excellent ripeness.  

This is the first commercially available vintage of this wine in Spain, a limited production of only 1,241 bottles. Endorsed by international wine critics, Pirene 2020 will be sold on a quota basis with a focus on four countries: Spain, Belgium, US, and Canada. Eric Asimov, wine critic for the New York Times, described it as one of the twelve best wines he had tasted in 2019 and praised the winemaking potential of the variety.  

For Miguel Torres Maczassek, fifth generation Familia Torres, Pirene 2020 is a wine of surprising elegance, aromatic intensity, and freshness. “Pirene is a hardy variety that has adapted well to climate change in addition to presenting all of the attributes needed to produce outstanding wines on an organoleptic level. It is undoubtedly one of the varieties we will be championing from here on out.”  

Miguel A. Torres initiated the project to recover ancestral varieties in the mid-1980s in an effort to help restore the winegrowing heritage of Catalonia. Faced with the challenges of climate change, his children Miguel and Mireia Torres, director of Knowledge and Innovation at Familia Torres,  decided on a new approach for the project. In addition to focusing on varieties with great oenological potential, they sought out heat-tolerant and drought-resistant grapes in an effort to create new wines with crisp acidity.   

Pirene is the fourth Familia Torres wine made from recovered ancestral varieties and the second varietal wine. It now joins its predecessors Grans Muralles (DO Conca de Barberà), which features Garró and Querol, the first two varieties the winery reintroduced, as part of a blend of other indigenous varieties; Clos Ancestral (DO Penedès), featuring the ancestral Moneu from the Castell de la Bleda vineyard in a blend with Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo) and Garnacha; and Forcada (DO Penedès), a varietal made 100% from the white ancestral grape that gives the wine its name.