Tasting Mas La Plana with Miguel Torres at Jaleo
Torres is one of Spain’s most important wineries, producing wines in Catalonia, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero. Twenty years ago, we traveled to Vilafranca in Penedés at the invitation of Juan Torres for a very special vertical tasting of Mas la Plana, the Torres winery’s iconic Cabernet Sauvignon that included vintages from 1975 to 1988. Known originally as Torres Gran Coronas Black Label, it was first produced in 1970 and quickly gained notoriety by coming out on top in the famous Gault-Milau Wine Olympics in 1979, beating out the likes of Chateaux Latour 1970 and La Mission-Haut-Brion 1961.
This month we repeated our vertical tasting of Mas la Plana at Jaleo in Washington, DC. This time our tasting was led by Miguel Torres, CEO and son of the famous winemaker and creator of Mas La Plana, Miguel Torres Jr. In this new vertical tasting, we tasted six vintages from 1977 to 2009. The tasting was followed by a celestial dinner prepared by Jose Andres’ culinary team at Jaleo. We review the wines and food below.
We tasted the following vintages of Mas la Plana: 1977, 1983, 1996, 2003, 2007, and 2009. Over the almost 40 years covered by these vintages much has changed. The vines, originally planted in the mid 1960s, have aged, and their roots have dug down deep, giving them a greater ability to withstand climatic stresses. Vineyard management has also changed with greater shading of the berries and longer hang time to ensure phenolic ripeness. Changes have also occurred in the winery. Skin contact has been extended from two weeks in earlier vintages to four weeks or more today. And while earlier vintages were matured in all American oak, and later a mix of and French oak, today they’re aged in all French barriques.
The wines reflect these vineyard and winery changes. The later vintages are more opulent and flavorful, and also higher in alcohol, than earlier vintages. Each vintage also reflects the climate of the year. The year 2003 was especially hot throughout Europe, and the Mas la Plana of that vintage reveals confiture and coffee. The elegance and richness of the 2007 and 2009 vintages, on the other hand, reflect the optimal weather of those years, which allowed for extended hang time with moderate temperatures.
1977 Light garnet. Aromas of earth, red berries, plum with hints of sweet oak. Delicate and silky, very well balanced and lively with soft tannins, good acidity and a vibrant finish. Alive and well.
1983 Opaque. Very aromatic, earthy and fruity. Complex and layered on the palate with hints of cedar, blackberries, and notes of forest floor and leather. Shows good structure. Long and persistent finish.
1996 Dense and pure dark fruit flavors. Not as earthy and complex as 1983 but has bigger fruit up front. Concentrated and elegant with excellent acidity and freshness.
2003 Big and intensely flavored with nuances of fine oak. Rich with glycerin, full in the mouth with warm spice and blackberry fruit with notes of black cherry comfiture and coffee. A very warm vintage.
2007 Pure black fruit aromas with hints of red berries. Full in the mouth and very ripe and rich tasting. Perfect balance, good acidity and elegant tannins, finishing very long. A wine of real finesse.
2009 Fragrant and pure dark black fruit on the nose. Soft, round and elegant on a silky palate and in perfect balance with ripe tannins. More generous than the 2007, evolved and ready to drink now, but will age well. Delicious.
The 1983 vintage was of special interest to us as we had tasted this wine some twenty years earlier, and it was our favorite of that first vertical tasting. Fortunately, it didn’t disappoint at Jaleo either. Matured in half American, half French oak and fermented almost five weeks on the skins, this wine now reveals a mature complexity with prominent secondary notes of leather, forest floor, and dense ripe fruit.
Following our tasting, the Jaleo culinary team prepared a superb dinner featuring a rich selection of Catalan dishes. Some of our favorites included:
Acetiunas Ferrán Adría: Liquid olives, though these look like traditional olives, they are anything but. They are like velvet in the mouth, and then they explode, releasing intense flavors of liquid olive juice. Amazing.
Higos con Jamón Ibérico de Belolta: Fresh figs with cured Ibérico ham. Exquisite. A simply divine combination of Spanish ham with figs, a perfect balance between the salty, intensely flavored thinly sliced strips of ham and the very fresh, ripe quarters of figs.
Escalivada Catalana: Roasted red peppers, eggplant and sweet onions. Nothing fancy about this dish, but the combination of peppers, eggplant, and onions in virgin olive oil was simple and magnificent.
Lomo de Bujey con Setas: Grilled steak with mushrooms. Succulent, tender, rich and rare. A perfect match for recent vintages of Mas de Plana.
Pan con Chocolate: Chocolate flan with brioche ice cream. An incredible dessert. The chocolate flan is a hybrid of chocolate mousse and rich, milk chocolate gelato, intensely creamy and deeply flavored. A wonderful end to the meal, which was accompanied by 20 year old Torres brandy.
Thanks to Jaleo, José Andrés, Lucas Paya, and Miguel Torres Maczassek for a very special evening.
Mike Potashnik and Don Winkler