Torres’s latest project in Catalonia is based on a vast property of almost 900Ha that the family bought in 1999. It is located in Les Garrigues (Lleida), an area with extreme continental climate, low rainfall and limestone soils in the Bessons Natural Park.
Known as the Desterrados estate (exiles in English), it was attached to the monastery of Montserrat and was said to be a sort of punishment for wayward monks. The monastery’s coat of arms (a saw over a range of mountains: Montserrat means sawed mountain) shows clearly on the façade at Mas de l’Aranyó next to its construction date (1770). The two old buildings, one for the monks, the other for the farmers, have been partially restored. A tasting room has been built and the ancient underground cellar is now connected to the new winemaking area built in 2018.
Garnacha, Cariñena and Syrah are the dominant grapes. All of them are grown at different altitudes, ranging from 330m to 550m above sea level, thus picking times can vary up to two weeks and offer different profiles of each variety. With such extreme conditions, the property is a testing field for the ancient Catalan grape varieties recovered by Torres: querol or gonfaus (a female grape that needs help for pollination and is coplanted with Garnacha and Cariñena). Varieties grown in the property include 200 hectares of Tempranillo, Cabernet and Merlot, among others. Arbequina olive trees spread over a further 94Ha.
Extreme low humidity usually blocks photosynthesis during the day causing dehydration that results in a concentration of sugar and acidity in the grapes. Cold nights however allow the grapes to rehydrate contributing to a slow ripening.
In the 1980s vines were abandoned in favour of olive trees —a much more profitable crop back then. When the Torres family bought the property in the late 1990s, wine growing tradition was recovered. Very soon, many Torres winemakers were fighting to get the Garnacha and Cariñena grapes farmed here. Although many of them still end up in wines sold as generic DO Catalunya, a single-vineyard wine was made for the first time in the 2012 vintage and sold exclusively in Germany under the name Purgatori (a nod to its former use as a place of exile).
More widely available now (around 36,000 bottles, €29 in Spain), Purgatori is a blend of Garnacha, Cariñena and roughly 10% Syrah. As of 2014, the percentage of Garnacha in the blend has increased to favour a juicy, aromatic style with less structure.
The new winemaking facilities built next to the old buildings hold an equal number of stainless steel and concrete tanks that are partly made with soil from the local vineyards. Wine is aged in 300-litre oak barrels. Around 80% of the wine is sold abroad.