When people think of Spain's wines, they tend to think of crisp Albariños from Galicia, Tempranillo-driven reds from Rioja and Ribera del Duero, and powerful cuvees from the Priorat, where Grenache is the dominant grape. Cabernet Sauvignon, the world’s most famous red variety, tends to be a supporting player here.
But not too long ago, at the Torres Winery in Penedès, I had the opportunity to do a historical tasting of Mas La Plana, arguably Spain’s greatest Cabernet. It comes from a single vineyard near the winery, entirely planted with Cabernet Sauvignon (unusual in an area that really specializes in Cava production). The vintages spanned over 40 years, and proved that, at least in this instance, Spain can make Cabernet on par with any other country in the world.
1971 Torres Gran Coronas Mas La Plana
This 43-year-old wine, though from a rainy, not-so-great vintage, is still drinking beautifully. It’s austere in an old-school way, with dried currant flavors and tart acidity, and an aromatic note that recalls brown sugar. At this time, there was also 20 percent Tempranillo and 10 percent Cabernet Franc in the blend.
1982 Torres Gran Coronas Mas La Plana
Similar dried-currant notes were present in this wine, but it wasn’t as tart and lemony as the ’71; less austere, more forgiving (and from a warm vintage, which helps explain the difference). By this vintage, Torres was using 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon for the wine.
1996 Torres Mas La Plana
Denser and darker than the older vintages, this had black currant flavors, grippy tannins, and a slightly bitter finish. There’s a green edge here that probably stems from the rainy, cold vintage. It was my least favorite of these five.
2007 Torres Mas La Plana
Riper in style (14.5 percent alcohol, as compared to the 1971 & 1982, which were both in the 12.5 percent zone), with dense black cherry and black tea notes and big powerful tannins—it’s a big wine, but somehow retains its elegance.
2010 Torres Mas La Plana ($65)
The current vintage of Mas La Plana is substantial and, at the moment, fairly oaky. Black currant fruit, toastiness from the 18 months of French oak aging, and some earthy depth; it’s not as powerful as the ’07, but no less appealing. Put it away for a few years, or else decant it for a few hours before serving.