Wine Review: 2012 Torres Mas La Plana

16 10 2017

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

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Cabernet royalty.

It’s Calgary municipal election night, so my plan was to put off this review until tomorrow.  Then I sat here for 10 minutes biting my fingernails and hitting “refresh” on the election results page on my phone every 60 seconds and realized that (1) the next four years of my civic life weren’t about to reveal themselves anytime soon and (2) I could use some guaranteed good news tonight regardless of political outcome.  And nothing screams “guaranteed good news” like the flagship wine of Miguel Torres, the most consistent larger-production winery I know.

If you have a photographic memory of this blog, you may remember that I have told the story of Mas La Plana once before; if you don’t, you can take solace in the fact that I almost didn’t remember this fact myself.  Nothing about this wine is quite as expected.  It is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Penedes, the heartland of Cava in eastern Spain near Barcelona, an area not remotely known for big red wines but blessed with numerous altitudes and microclimates that allow for pockets of warmth and create opportunity for special sites like the one that birthed this bottle.  It hails from a 29-hectare single vineyard planted before I was born, from Cab vines introduced to Spanish soil between 1964 and 1979 based on cuttings from numerous prior homes, including 1st Growth Bordeaux chateaux.  It looks strangely at home in a Burgundy bottle, unlike any other Cabernet Sauvignon I have seen on a shelf.

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Penedes was the first region in Spain to start using modern winemaking techniques like stainless steel temperature-controlled fermentation, and Torres uses them to great effect here to create a bottle that seamlessly communicates Spain’s history and potential to a global wine world, that imbues the Earth’s most ubiquitously successful commercial grape with the essence of the Torres family’s heartland.  Mas La Plana tells a story that was heard almost immediately, as the wine’s inaugural 1970 vintage beat out Chateau Latour and numerous other luminaries in the Cabernet category of French magazine Gault-Millau‘s 1979 Wine Olympics (which weirdly was the exact same competition that put Oregon Pinot Noir on the world map thanks to Eyrie Vineyards’ stellar showing against the best of Burgundy).  Yet it still retains its humble family roots:  its neck foil reads “Vinetum Paganicus”, a term sometimes used to designate top wines but which to the best of my meagre Latin translation ability appears to simply mean “vineyard of a village”.

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The 2012 Mas La Plana saw 18 months in mostly new French oak after its stainless fermentation, followed by extended time in bottle before release.  Neither its wood contact nor its resting time in bottle seems to have affected its monstrously intense, brooding, glass-staining, omnipotent ruby-purple colour, which immediately draws both the eye and seemingly all of the light in the room.  As you start to lean towards the hue, the aromas take over, catapulting out of the glass in waves of sweet blackberry and grape, semi-sweet chocolate and molasses, leather and cedar and violets, a lush dense powerhouse.  It is more New World in style than some prior vintages, particularly in its early approachability on the palate, with lavish fruit coating the tongue and sumptuous oak notes hitting half a beat later, a flood of purple (blueberry, plum, lavender, ink, grape Kool-Aid) accented by toast and mocha and the best s’mores you’ve ever tasted.

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Cork Rating:  5/10 (If a Penedes Cab can get a Burgundy bottle, can’t it get a special cork too?

But just when you think it starts to nudge into opulence, the bright refreshing acid kicks in and the sweet ripeness is reined in just enough by substantial tannins and grounding notes of roasted earth, dust and char that haunt the palate long after you swallow.  This is just abjectly delicious now, but I bet that a couple more years of patience will be greatly rewarded, giving the firestorm of flavour a chance to mellow and settle down a touch; if you came back in a decade you’d be in for a real treat.  Another trip around the sun with a legend.

92 points

$65 to $70 CDN

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