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Torres backs Spain and Chile for future growth

Published:  23 July, 2008

By Christian Davis
Miguel Torres, the king of vinous Spain, backs his homeland for future growth and development but is also a big fan of Chile.

Torres was in London last week for the IWSC (International Wine & Spirit Competition) banquet. He told Harpers: 'The potential is there. Spain has lots of old vines and people forget that Spain has the lowest yields in Europe - much less than France, Italy or Germany. It is possible to irrigate, but we do not have much water. Also, Spain has the brands and they are paramount to ensure consumer demand.'

With interests in Chile and California, Torres was asked if he had any more plans for overseas expansion. He said: 'We were the first foreign wine company in Chile back in 1979 when Pinochet was in power. We were dealing with Franco for many years so we thought we could survive in Chile,' he quipped.

'I think there is a great future for Chilean wines. We have looked at other countries such as South Africa, but we compare it to Chile and and we prefer to concentrate on Chile.'

Torres said that they have discovered a site, called the Empedrado estate about 20 kilometres inland from the seaside resort of Constitucin in the Maule region. 'Most of the soils in Chile are quite homogenous, alluvial with some clay. They do not have the terroir of Europe. But we have found some slate soils in a very cold area and we have made terraces like the Douro. The challenge is going to be how to advance maturation.We planted carefully to get maximum sunlight and with the cane of the vine close tothe ground to get the heatfrom the slate.'

The company has planted 15 varieties, including Merlot, Garnacha and Sauvignon Blanc, which have thrived.

Torres said the company, which is still family owned and run, sold 2.5 million cases last year to 130 countries, and said that 95% of profits are re-invested with 30 million going into research and development.

One project is to discover the indigenous grape varieties of the Catalonian province. He said approximately 90 ancestral varieties disappeared as a result of the ravages of phylloxera. Following searches and appeals through local newspapers, they had rediscovered 10 and are cultivating them again.