Going global with Miguel Torres – interview with winemaker Bodegas Torres Pres. Miguel Torres – Interview
[Bodegas Torres in Villafranca del Penedes in Catalonia is one of Spain’s most important exporters of table wines as well as a leading supplier to the Spanish national market. Miguel Torres, winemaker and president of the company, is regarded as one of the international superstars of winemaking, an authority in both technical winemaking and marketing. The family also owns a winery in Chile and Marimar Torres, Miguel’s sister, operates Marimar Torres Estate Wines in California. We interviewed Miguel Torres in early April as he was preparing to leave Spain for the harvest in Chile.)
W&V: As a winegrower in both Spain and Chile, you are obviously aware of the importance of the global wine trade. From that background, could you tell me briefly why you believe it is important for your wines to be in so many international markets?
We are a family-owned brand but we are global players. We believe that our consumers have to be able to find the Torres label all over the world. We also see the importance of the new markets, the emerging markets and we, as leaders, have to be present there.
W&V: How many markets do you ship your wines to?
To over 90 countries.
W&V: Some of these shipments must be very small, relatively speaking. How do you justify the cost of those operations?
My father used to say that we have to be in every market, even in the very small ones. He personally traveled to remote places of the world that, because of the low volume, did not perhaps justify his personal involvement. But he was more than happy afterwards when a common friend would tell him that he found Torres wines in Samoa or Saskatchewan, for example.
W&V: What are the best markets for Torres Spanish wines?
The Spanish market and the Scandinavian markets.
W&V: What are the best markets for the Chilean wines?
The Chilean market and all the European markets and Canada.
W&V: Over the past few years, have you seen an overall increase or decrease in sales? If so, can you give the percentage?
These past years we have had a continuous average growth of 12%.
W&V: What are prospects for the future of your wines in the world market?
We are optimistic about the future. We believe we will consolidate our mature markets and grow in the new emerging markets like Asia where we are progressing fast. Finally there are markets like the United States where we still have to gain a more important market share. When you look at the statistics, Spain has only a 3% market share of the imported table wines in the U.S. That is very small and even countries like Brazil have a better market share. Spanish wines are yet to be discovered by the American consumers. Probably the marketing of Spanish wines in the last years has not been correct. But also the structure in the United States with so many levels for the distribution of the wines makes it very difficult to achieve a direct contact, in which family-owned companies, as it is in our case, feel much stronger. But we are sure that the future belongs to the Mediterranean wines, and Barcelona is the capital of the Mediterranean. More and more, American tourists will visit our country and they will discover not only our geography and our history but also our gastronomy and the wines. But as I said before the U.S. is a market with a lot of opportunities and great potential.
W&V: Turning away from Torres wines for the moment, how do you see the world wine-growing regions developing? Perhaps it would be better to break that into geographic areas, such as Central Europe, South Africa, South America, etc.
I do not have much information about Central Europe or South Africa because I have not been there, but in South America, I can see Chile continuing its progress. At this time, Chileans are exporting a lot of wine in bulk to several destinations and that is why the stocks are at a very low level. But I believe that in the future more and more quality wines will emerge from Chile and compete with the top wines of the world.
W&V: I am especially interested in your thoughts on the Asian market in general and China in particular?
China is a market we are considering very carefully. We visit China very often and we are exploring all the possibilities of the market. We are already selling our wines there and our brandies though the present duty structure makes the prices very high and not very competitive.
W&V: Somewhat related to the above question is the issue of varietal labeling of wines. Do you believe that the marketing of wines by varietal will become dominant in the next century? If so, is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Although we understand that labeling the wines with the varietal is important in many markets, we are not in favor of giving up our brands. We believe family-owned brands are the best guarantee for the consumer. However, we agree that varietals have to be on the label also as a matter of information. The problem is that many Spanish grapes are totally unknown for the international consumers.
W&V: Some have expressed fears that an international wine style is developing that ignores the terroir and thinks only of the market place, especially for the most popular varieties, such as Chardonnay. Do you see this as a potential problem ?
I would agree partially with these fears about the international wine style ignoring terroir and local characteristics. Here in Spain we have worked for the last ten years in the restoration of the old Catalan grapes and we have more than 75 acres planted with old grapes like Monastrell, Garrut; Samso, etc. in excellent soils on our Grans Murallas estate. I think Spain has to reflect in its wines all the potential of its fantastic history, its culture and its tradition.
W&V: Finally, I believe our readers would be interested in your philosophy of winemaking. I realize that is a very broad question, but what I would like to get at is what do you look for when you taste a wine? Is your approach purely technical or do you also assess a wine for its pleasurable qualities?
I think that wine is, first of all to provide pleasure, so I think that today that is the direction we must work toward. We want in our wines a sensation of voluptuous fullness, of intensity that reflects our soil (terroir), our climate and our wine-growing style.
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