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07.11.2007

2005 Torres "Mas Rabell" Red Wine, Catalunya, Spain

Most of the time I buy my wines from proper wine stores. Not just because I like to support them, but also because I'm a firm believer in cultivating a relationship with good wine retailers, who will inevitably turn you on to wines you might not have known about or tried.

Sometimes, however, I'm wandering through the grocery store and something catches my eye (yes, sometimes I buy by the label, just like the rest of you) and I throw it in the cart. I came into possession of this wine in roughly that mas_rabell.jpgmanner, with the additional variable of this being Wine Blogging Wednesday #35, which happens to focus on value priced red wines from Spain.

I should probably admit that my choice of the wine wasn't entirely random, either. It was actually selected very specifically, as being the only red wine from Spain in roughly the $10 price range at my local Whole Foods that I hadn't tasted before. So it came home with me.

And now it's sitting here next to my computer, mostly untouched. But we'll get to that in a minute.

Anyone with sharp vision will be able to see that the label carries a very prominent name brand, a name that will be instantly recognizable to those who know even the smallest amount about Spanish wine. Torres is to Spain as perhaps Mondavi is to California. Or perhaps what Antinori is to Italy and the Rothschilds are to Bordeaux.

Indeed, for a time, the four of these families, or rather dynasties belonged to the same elite organization known as Primum Familiae Vini or "First Families of Wine" a sort of professional association for the oldest, most prestigious family-run winemaking dynasties in the world. The Mondavi family lost its membership when it sold its winery operations, but the Torres Family, now at least five generations old in its direct winemaking history (and more than 300 years old in its association with wine), continues to be a member.

Torres is now one of the largest producers of wine in Spain, making everything from luxury wines at the $50 to $70 price point, to some of the most inexpensive Spanish wines around, including this wine, which according to the Torres web site, was produced exclusively to be sold in restaurants.

Like many of the huge family-run wine empires of the world, Torres had humble beginnings, first as wine haulers, then as wine traders, and eventually as winegrowers and producers. As winemakers their wines were at first small local efforts, but through a combination of good winemaking and extreme business savvy, one of their wines, Sangre de Toro (that is remarkably still produced today), became the first Spanish wine to get truly global distribution. From there, it was only a small hop, skip, and jump to become the mega-producer they are today. I actually have no idea just how much wine Torres produces each year, other than just, a lot.

This wine is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Carignane from the Catalunya appellation of Spain, the area surrounding Barcelona on Spain's Northeastern corner. The wine is named after the fortified farmhouse on the Torres estate, and is aged for six months in a combination of French and American oak before bottling.

Tasting Notes:
Light to medium garnet in color this wine has a nose of ethyl alcohol, leather, and hints of red fruit. In the mouth it offers tart, somewhat taut red fruit flavors that are marred by a hard edge of acidity and the heat of alcohol. Light, leathery tannins give the wine some grip in the mouth, but there's nothing much clinging to the palate after the first instant of flavor, making this a pretty unsatisfying wine, even for the price.

Food Pairing:
The flavor profile would suggest that it might be best with a rich dish like this lamb stew with lemon and figs.

Overall Score: 7.5

How Much?: $11

This wine is available at your local Whole Foods, and presumably select restaurants throughout the world. But I recommend skipping it.

Comments (16)

jim wrote:
07.12.07 at 2:47 AM

I am very glad to see that someone actually posts what they feel is the truth about a given wine. I have seen nothing but great and better reviews and I know that there are "not so great" wines out there. Thanks for being pointed and truthfull

doug wrote:
07.12.07 at 12:37 PM

To your point of the Torres luxury line, I have fond memories of a Black Label Cab (blend?) vintages from the early 80's -- lovely, rich, complex.

Was it the Sangre de Toro that featured a little plastic bull tied to the capsule?

Jill wrote:
07.12.07 at 3:04 PM

Alder -- surprised you even gave this a 7.5. It sounds like a 6 from your description (when ethyl alcohol springs to your mind before red fruit, you know you're in trouble)...

Wino Bob wrote:
07.12.07 at 4:52 PM

Their Mas la Plana is spectacular, but it their chilean wines that I appreciate for quality-to-value in the affordable range

MsRebecca wrote:
07.12.07 at 7:41 PM

Yes.. thank you kindly for being honest.. Looking forward to more helpful reviews..

Jack wrote:
07.12.07 at 9:02 PM

Your score and "the flavor profile would suggest" using it to disinfect, I mean, wash your car.

Alder wrote:
07.15.07 at 11:00 PM

Doug,

Thanks for the comments. It's been ages since I've seen a Sangre de Toro bottle, but I don't remember the little bull...

Erwin Dink wrote:
07.28.07 at 6:48 PM

Yes, the little plastic bull was on the Torres Sangre de Torro which I have enjoyed on occasion.

Javier Marti wrote:
10.30.07 at 7:31 AM

Torres is a huge producer and has pioneered exports in Spain. I am not a fan of Torres wines, but to be fair with the producer one should also consider how this wine got to your local store (int'l shipment by container, storage in the harbour, transport to importer, storage, transport to distributor, storage, and so on!). This poor bottle has possibly withstood too much hazzle in the way to your table. Next time I go to Spain I will taste in situ and let you know the experience.

ryan wrote:
12.03.07 at 1:15 PM

Torres is a must to know when exploring Spain, they have helped to create wine law, helped to pioneer lost varietal research, explored new terroirs, and all around done a TON to promote Spanish wine. If you want I did a podcast with Mireia Torres, the daughter of Miguel and winemaker for most of their wines. Sorry to hear you had a bad bottle, this is not one of my favorites though.

Ernst wrote:
06.16.08 at 11:02 PM

I find it truly interesting that you did not like this wine. I found the wine has delicate berry flavors and a smoothness that beautifully complemented a pork dish and enough body to stand up to a London Broil steak. I particularly did not find it acidic. Maybe you had a bad bottle. On the other hand, our tastes could be that different. I simply loved the Torres Mas Rabell.

Wolfy wrote:
12.12.08 at 2:27 PM

I know it's an old post but I'm a little bit puzzled by your conclusions: is really a 7.5 wine at $11 so disappointing? From your reviews I guess you rate wines on a 10-point scale, so 7.5 should be close to very good. What am I missing?

Alder wrote:
12.12.08 at 8:30 PM

Yes, I rate on a 10 point scale. 7.5 is the equivalent of the US school letter grade of "C" which is average. Otherwise known as mediocre. Any wine that rates like that is disappointing. The price has nothing to do with my rating or my tasting note.

Wolfy wrote:
12.13.08 at 12:01 PM

Alder, thank you for your explanation. BTW, your scale is consistent with, for instance, the Wine Spectator 100-point scale. As you probably know, in Italy, where I'm originally from, we use a slightly different scale. 70 over 100 is actually considered a good evaluation for correct wines, without much personalities but with no flaws. 60-69 is considered sufficient, for wines with minor flaws but still drinkable. Gambero Rosso, probably the most important Italian magazine on Food&Wine, uses this scales, often translated into "Glasses" (from 1 to 3).

I beg to differ on your last sentence, though. While I agree that ratings and sensory analysis have got nothing to do with price, I stopped chasing quality abstracted from price long time ago. Unless somebody else is paying! :-)

Alder wrote:
12.14.08 at 4:00 PM

Wolfy,

Consistent with, but not entirely the same. In particular, and quite deliberately, it is vague. For instance, when I rate a wine between 9 and 9.5 points. That doesn't mean that it is a 9.25, it just means somewhere in that range. Because I couldn't possibly tell you what the difference is between a 92 and a 93 point wine.

I choose to let my readers make up their own minds about what represents value and what does not. In the end I think every responsible critic must do the same. All of us have different definitions of affordable, and therefore all of us evaluate QPR differently.

Wolfy wrote:
12.15.08 at 8:35 AM

Alder, QPR is not just a matter of affordability, which is of course personal, but also of justifiability. There are several factors influencing the end price of a wine, but when market speculation is unreasonably preponderant it must be pointed out by responsible critics.

As a very simple example, I can easily justify the high price of a Chateau d'Yquem bottle based on the type of wine, the draconian selection during the harvest and the aging process. I can't honestly say the same for Jermann Vintage Tunina: it's a wonderful wine but, at the end, is a steel fermented and aged white wine, sold a few months after the harvest. It can't cost more than a Barolo or a Brunello.

That said, if the market wants to pay high prices for status symbol wines, I can't, unfortunately, do anything about it but noticing that the choice of affordable high-end wines is increasingly narrowing, regardless of any definition of affordability.

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