The debut of a new wine is a tense moment, especially when the people tasting it have names like Rothschild, Antinori and Drouhin. But the Torres family, Spain's leading wine dynasty, has always taken risks.
On a hot day this past summer, members of those wine families and others—33 guests in all—gathered under a tent at one of the Torres family's Priorato estates, in northeastern Spain. While enjoying a breathtaking view of the property's terraced vineyards, they sipped samples of inky, intense Clos Bellaterra. The wine probably won't be on the market until 2007, but that the Torres family was willing to preview an experimental blend says a great deal about their confidence in it—and the reaction from their guests suggested the confidence was justified.
Until the Torreses bought land in Priorato in 1995, this empty lunar landscape of arid hills was scattered with a few tiny, steep vineyards, many of them no larger than an acre or two. But the Torres family saw the land's potential in wines like Alvaro Palacios's cult bottlings L'Ermita and Finca Dofí and moved aggressively, purchasing 270 acres of the region's scant 4,000. Their involvement confirmed Priorato's status. After they bought in, land prices soared.