If you think that romance is dead, the Torrevellisca vineyard has news for you. Its story is almost pure Hollywood; a Portuguese aristocrat gives up his claim to the throne and rides off into the sunset to grow grapes and make wine. There is probably a young maiden in there somewhere but I couldn’t find her despite three minutes on the Internet.
Don Luis Melo de Portugal, Marqués de Vellisca, Grande de España, arrived in Fontanars in 1880, and his vines continue to produce some of the best wine in the area, if not in the country.
He established himself in an estate called El Balcó and today the vineyard, run by the Zagromonte company, continues his work in his name.
Apart from its own vines covering ten hectares, the vineyard also takes in the grapes of another 20 producers, a leftover from the epoch when it was a co-operative.
Ther current building, where the wine is processed and bottled, dates back to 1993, and the vineyard has been private since 2009.
Fontanars, an area known as the Tuscany of Spain, is located between two mountain ranges, creating a special geographical feature, where, in summer, a mist is formed over the vines, keeping them cool during the hot months. This has a great ecological advantage in that they never have to water the vines.
Torresvellisca is dedicated to research and discovering new, exciting blends, and has an experimental fields with a wide range of grapes, including Macabeo, Chardonnay, Verdil, Verdejo, Shiraz, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Monastrell; searching always for the perfect blend.
The production centre is a mixture of new technology and traditional methods, overseen by the eonologist José Maria Cubillas. When the harvest is first brought in it is fermented in stainless steel containers, each one having room for 100,000 litres of wine.
The company can bottle, label and package up to 8,000 bottles of wine a day.
Speaking of labels, the company uses them to philosophise unashamedly. In their ‘Porquebrindas’ series the label contains an alphabet soup (without the soup) explaining all the good things to toast with a glass of wine.
Torresvellisca offers tours in English, German and Russian thanks to the presence of Russian-born manageress Natalia, who has lived worked and studied in Florida, USA and Dresden, Germany.
60% of production is exported, and their aim is to reach 80%. The main foreign markets are the UK, Germany, Switzerland, China, Russia and Nigeria, with new markets opening up in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Although it’s drunk all over the world, Torrevellisca’s wines are made exclusively from grapes grown in the area. They have not succumbed to the evil practice of buying grapes from other regions to mix in with the indigenous stock.
Down in the cellar lie the stacks of barrels, half and half American and French oak; each providing its own subtle, flavour-altering shades of tanins.
No visit would be complete without a tasting; in order to research the material thoroughly in our case.
We were treated to Torrevellisca’s full range of wines, including the award winningAurum de Zagromonte, which won a silver medal in Brussels for its 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and also the Emrujo Negro, which obtained a silver at the 2014 Premium Wine Challenge. They also have several Bacchus awards; a silver from 2002, a bronze from 2004, a silver from 2006 and another from 2012.
We also sampled a young red 2015 Tempranillo and Shiraz, a Petit Verdot from 2014, an Embrujo Negro, so called because the Monastrell and Shiraz grapes are harvested at night.
Despite our tiredness, we continued in order to bring this chronicle to our faithful readership, enduring an Argentum made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo grapes after 2 years in the barrel, followed by a 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and then a Merlot blended with Cabernet Sauvignon with two years in barrel and one in the bottle and then a 100% Merlot.
Finally we tried the Mistela, at which point I couldn’t resist explaining that British sailors used to call it Miss Taylor, which was neither here nor there.
We did our best, as the photos show,
and walked away happy, as best we could.