Fifth generation of winegrowers, Victoria Torres is at the forefront of quality wines from La Palma, a volcanic island dominated by the imposing Caldera de Taburiente, a national park in the centre of the island, and Roque de los Muchachos, a rocky peak ascending 2,426 meters above the clouds and housing the telescopes of the Astrophysics Observatory.
A Unesco Biosphere Reserve, its closeness to the sea and the abrupt landscape of La Palma —it is the highest island on the planet in relation to its surface— explain the countless microclimates, soil types and obscure varieties planted ungrafted in a spot where phylloxera never reached.
The seven hectares of vines that she works, some of them from small winegrowers, are spread between Fuencaliente to the south, where her small winery is located, Mazo in the east, and Tinazara, Briesta, Puntagorda y Garafía in the northwest, a cooler are with richer volcanic soils and head-pruned vines at 1,200-1,400 metres above sea level. This area is planted mostly to Albillo Criollo —a different variety to other Albillos found on the mainland— and Negramoll, the most common red variety in La Palma.
Malvasía, the island’s most valued variety, comes from Los Llanos Negros, a western oriented slope with vineyards planted on volcanic lapilli at 200-400 meters of altitude and up to 130 years of age. With this variety Vicky makes her prized Matías i Torres Malvasía Naturalmente Dulce (50 cl, €50 in Spain), a wine of evocative perfume and honeyed palate cut through by piercing acidity and a lingering finish. The climatic conditions and the low yields of Malvasía —her best vintage was 2012, when 3,000 were produced; in 2016 she barely managed 30 litres— along with her curiosity to explore the potential of this variety resulted in Matías i Torres Malvasía Aromática Seca (1,500 bottles, €35), a wine with powerful aromatics in contrast with a dry, austere palate balanced by good acidity.
On the southern slopes of the San Antonio volcano, under the black ridge facing the ocean, lies Las Machuqueras, one of her favorite vineyards as it has been in the family for five generations. The vines, ungrafted and aged between 45 to 100 years old, are protected by walls called chains, and they crawl on the black soil defying the northwestern wind that blows unrelentingly.
Her Listán Blanco Las Machuqueras (3,000 bottles, €20), a single-varietal harvested by hand and aged with its lees (as are the rest of her wines) for seven months before a short time in large oak barrels. Concentrated and mineral, it displays a complex palate with saline nuances (Listán Blanco, aka Palomino from Jerez).
All her wines are made in an artisan way, with spontaneous fermentations and no temperature controls. Organic and some biodynamic principles are applied on the vineyards —she uses plant infusions— but she rejects “impositions”. Many of the tasks, both in the vineyard and in the winery, are still done manually.
Vicky makes two more whites. Matías i Torres Diego (1,500 bottles, €26.40), also known as Bujariego or Vijariego Blanco, comes from a vineyard in Fuencaliente at 800 meters above sea level and grown on very low pergolas. She is the only producer in the island to make a single varietal with Diego. Matías i Torres Albillo Criollo (1,500 bottles, €21) comes from 30-50 year-old-vines from Briesta, in the north, surrounded by Canary pines and fennel. It stands out with is aromatic herb and mineral profile balanced by good acidity and purity on the palate.
Her range of reds includes two wines: Matías i Torres Negramoll (4.000 botellas, 22 €) mixes grapes from different plots in the island and is pressed in the traditional pine lagar built in 1885 before it is aged in old Sherry casks brought by her father, who passed away in 2015, from Chiclana. In the 2016 vintage she launched a 100% Listán Prieto (País in Chile) which is due to be released soon.
Vicky has recently recovered the chestnut casks traditionally used in the area and has installed cement tanks in search of “purity and expression of the variety” and she also works with demijohns (“to see the effect of the veil of yeast, which sometimes occurs spontaneously here”).
Due to the small dimensions of her winery and her artisanal way of working, there are no tours but Vicky, a friendly and smiling woman, never closes the door to visitors.