An ancestral grape is brought back to life

Familia Torres has launched an ancestral winegrowing project in DO Penedès, which will involving the restoration of the historic, dry-stone landscape.
 

Les Escostes/Credit: JordiElias
Les Escostes/Credit: JordiElias

Families Torres, the Spanish producers renowned for their commitment to the environment, have launched another project – they are creating a vineyard devoted to Forcada, a white grape recovered from the edge of extinction.

The new plantings will take place at Alts d'Ancosa in Penedès, and the goal is to restore the historic terraced mountain vineyards, which can reach an elevation of 700 metres, while also future proofing against climate change.

“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,” said general manager Miguel Torres Maczassek, a member of Familia Torres's fifth generation. 

Ancestral varieties

Familia Torres has worked for nearly 40 years on recovering Spain’s forgotten varieties. In the 1980s, the company began placing ads, asking people to alert them if they saw any unusual grape varieties. It was an exercise in disappointment – when the Torres teamed turned up to look at the grapes, they often found well-known grapes that were simply living in unusual places.

Here and there were some interesting grapes, however, often abandoned because they were in the wrong place. The company’s viticulturists would clean any viruses from the grapes, propagate them and then grow them in different microclimates.

Forcada, discovered in the northwestern part of the Penedès and planted in the Torres vineyard in 2005, was first vinified in 2014, when it showed very good acidity and herbal characteristics.

Now, it has found a new home at Torres’ Les Escostes property in Anoia county. The site has 25 consecutive terraces with dry stone walls, and the lower terraces have been replanted with Forcada, trained in the traditional Gobelet style. The dry-stone walls are being restored and the project preserves the existing olive trees.

Full restoration will take upwards of three years. The restoration is itself a type of archaeological project, as these types of terraced, hill vineyards were gradually abandoned after mechanisation was introduced. Today, many of the old terraces have been overtaken by trees.

“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,” said Miguel Torres Maczassek.

Familia Torres also celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2020.

 

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