Familia Torres launches ancestral winegrowing project in DO Penedès

/ 2020 · 03 · 04

Familia Torres has embarked on an ancestral winegrowing project in Alts d'Ancosa in the Penedès appellation of origin. The goal is to restore historical winegrowing landscapes and terraced mountain vineyards while introducing measures to adapt to climate change. The family-owned winery, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, has begun restoring the old dry-stone terraces and planting vines on a small property it owns in Las Escostes, in the municipal area of La Llacuna, in Anoia county.    

The vineyard will be dedicated exclusively to Forcada, an ancestral white variety recovered by Familia Torres. The south-facing terraces climb up to an elevation of 700 meters and are presided over by a well-preserved barraca, a small dry-stone structure often found in old vineyards. What makes this site so special are its 25 consecutive terraces with dry stone walls. The lower terraces – still cultivated up to the present – have been replanted with Forcada vines trained in the traditional Gobelet style. The process preserved the existing olive trees, characteristic of the Mediterranean landscape, and restored the dry-stone walls. The restoration of the upper terraces will proceed gradually during the course of this project, which is anticipated to take approximately three years.   

The outbreak of phylloxera in the late 19th century, and the subsequent mechanization of farming, led to the gradual abandonment of terraced, hillside vineyards like those of Les Escostes, because they were difficult to access and cultivate. Although forests have taken over many of these terraces, the traces of this ancestral form of viticulture are still visible in the dry-stone boundary and retaining walls that have survived the passage of time.

Miguel Torres Maczassek, member of Familia Torres's fifth generation and the winery's general manager, states that “by planting new vines in Les Escostes, we want to restore an exceptional, historical vineyard and contribute to the preservation of the landscape and the rural heritage of Catalonia as represented by the traditional dry-stone terraces where our ancestors grew their crops. At the same time, we want to explore the limits of Forcada, a late-ripening ancestral variety, by planting the vines at a higher elevation to compensate the effects of rising temperatures.”

Les Escostes provides ideal winegrowing conditions. The vines develop very well in these loamy-textured, calcareous soils with moderate levels of organic matter and a moderate water holding capacity. The climate is Mediterranean continental, with concentrated rainfall in spring and fall. Furthermore, the elevation of the vineyard results in temperature variation during the summer months that benefits the gradual maturation of the grapes.

At Les Escostes, Familia Torres applies the approach of its flagship vineyards: it works the land while preserving the landscape, respecting the environment, and encouraging biodiversity. The winery sees this vineyard as an ecosystem where the human hand, winegrowing, and nature coexist in harmony. The free-standing vines are grown organically and harvested by hand, which reduces the use of machinery and cuts down on carbon emissions. The winery has also installed nesting boxes in nearby trees to encourage the proliferation of birds and bats.

Forcada is an ancestral white variety recognized by the Penedès appellation of origin. Familia Torres recovered Forcada as part of its project to revive pre-phylloxera varieties, initiated more than 30 years ago. Over 50 varieties have been recovered so far, but Forcada is currently the only white variety with the right characteristics to produce great wines and handle the challenges of climate change. This is due to the fact that Forcada is a long-cycle variety that ripens slowly and maintains a pronounced level of acidity. Forcada is currently grown in the Mas Palau vineyard, in Santa Maria de Miralles, at an elevation of 550 meters. The production is small and aimed exclusively at high-end restaurants.