There are hundreds if not thousands of wineries in Spain, and some great wineries near Barcelona. Some are small, some are large, some are cooperative associations, some are private endeavour and some are even public corporations traded in the stock exchange. But among them all, one of the better known, most international and largest is Torres Wines, a fifth generation winery originally from the Penedes DO Appellation region, about half an hour from Barcelona, but with branches in Chile, the US and even in India.
About Bodegas Torres winery
Torres winery was founded in 1870 and best known for its Coronas and Sangre de Toro mass labels. But in recent decades, this family business has expanded into the higher end range thanks to the revenues that are generated by the mass market wines, reinventing itself as a sustainable, pioneer and heavily committed to the environment.
In 2008, Torres made a strong commitment to fight global warming and reduce CO2 emissions at the winery by 30% per bottle by 2020 through its Torres & Earth initiatives which focus on waste management, efficient and renewable energy, water usage and R&D.
Despite wine is what made Torres famous, the most successful and revenue generating product is an interesting one: brandy. Wine distillation and brandy ageing only started at the end of the 1920s but have become the company’s flagship product.
What is even more fascinating is that the highest consumption of brandy is not in Spain but in Mexico where the youngsters mix this high alcoholic drink with soda as a nightclub cocktail and shared with some of the best Mexican foods. My friend Marisa, who visited Torres with me, confirmed she used to do that when she was a teenager. One of those interesting turn of events. Torres 5, Torres 10 and Torres 20 are also household names in Spain but usually mixed with coffee as a digestive drunk by people the age of my father.
Operations in Chile started in 1979 and the Californian branch, under the sister of the current patriarch, Marimar Torres, planted the first vine in 1982. Since 2005, Torres has not only continued to expand internationally to India but also bought vineyards and started producing wines in other Spanish appellations like red-centered Ribera del Duero, Priorat and Rioja.
Miguel Torres, the retired father of the current General Manager, and the agent of change in the winery during the last decades, has been awarded several lifetime achievements including some from prestigious wine magazine Decanter. In 1999, Wine Spectator also called Torres the most important winery in Spain.
In 2007, Miguel Torres was named the most influential wine grower in Spain and second in Europe. British wine magazine Drinks International chose Torres as the European most admired wine brand from 2011 to 2016 and as the world’s most admired wine brand for two consecutive years, in 2014 and 2015. Torres Wine Royalty status is well established.
Bodegas Torres and me
Torres is a well known household brand in Spain. If you grew up in Spain and even more so, in the Penedes region like I did, Torres is a wine bottle you have seen since childhood on every supermarket shelf, on every wine store, at every home.
In my case, I lived with my mother in Vilafranca del Penedes, where Torres is located since it was first founded, and my father lives within 20min, closer to the coast. What is more, in my first ever job after graduation at PwC, I was assigned to the Torres audit because of proximity to my home. I used to drive to their offices in the morning and drive back home for lunch every day.
My father makes wine too, and I grew up in a winery among vineyards, so I understood the business day to day already when I started the audit but it gave me the financial perspective of running a wine making business of that dimension. That was in 2004. Today, Torres is an even larger business of around 250 million euro in revenues per year, internationally acclaimed and awarded.
But let me bring the brand even closer to home; my sister’s husband works for Torres, in the lab as one of the oenologist, and helps out in the research initiatives that Torres runs on new wine varietals to test for more weather resistance alternatives in case global warming continues to affect the vineyards.
So when my good friends Kate and Marisa, decided to come to Spain with me during the week before my sister’s wedding, I had to ask her husband, Marc to help us organise great wine visits and, a tour of Torres. They both landed on Saturday morning and we went to a premium wine and cava maker then to the historical Cava Llopart and, after an indulging lunch, to Torres.
Torres wine tourism
Torres organises and participates in a number of wine tourism tours organised or delivered by others. You can do the most basic of the tours, aboard Torres’ train, you take a tour of the winery and hear a pre-recorded explanation in several languages. Although given the size and the number of visitors, this is one of the least personalised of the wine tours one can take around the Penedes wine region, Torres is an institution and worth a visit, but maybe go for the most complete tours.
From the most basic, you can add on top from more tastings to a visit to the vineyards, to pairings with cheese. There are also tasting workshops and premium tours. All these are still offered just at the winery, Torres also has other off-site tours.
One of the most interesting, local and special experiences is the summer tour offered from April to November. This combines a tour of the winery, a tour of medieval Vilafranca del Penedes, where Torres is, a visit to the Vinseum Wine museum in the same city and a traditional Catalan dinner.
It all ends with a very fascinating, unique and exclusive visit to El Figarot, the training grounds of the local Human Tower group, one of the most famous and well-established ones, if not the most. Having lived in Vilafranca, this is where we used to spend Friday nights, watching the practice as we had drinks and socialised. This is a very real experience, no tourist knows about this.
But Torres also participates in combo tours with a visit to Montserrat, the sacred mountain and Abbey on top of a rounded mountain range that is holy to Catalans. There are also self-guided tours of the the wine region that include Torres, train ticket combos from Barcelona that also include the tour of the winery.
Aside from the above tours, which are all in the main cellar, Torres has two other cellars in Spain from where he organises tours. If you are interested in brandy, you can head to Mas Rabell where you can take a brandy tour or even make your own brandy. There is also a restaurant on site and wine pairing meals available.
If you’re visiting one of their estates or wineries near Barcelona, then don’t forget to save my article on a 4 day itinerary to Barcelona, my guide to one day in Barcelona, or this travel guide to the nearby beachside town of Sitges.