We stood at the top of ridge where the land of Fredi Torres Viticultors ended and admired the view across the lands which comprised the legendary wineland of Priorat. To our left stood the famous L’Ermita, standing fifty metres higher than our location. Behind us, La Vilella Alta sat quietly and to our right the town of La Vilella Baixa was also silent. We stood, admired the mountain Pas de l’Ase, and enjoyed the fruits of Priorat’s newest vineyard.
Fredi’s name is known throughout Catalunya, and when we began our research on the region his name kept popping up in a variety of articles about a variety of vineyards. After spending the 90s and part of the new millenium as a globetrotting DJ, Fredi found solace in the religion of the grape. Spending time learning the book side of the trade in Lausanne, he ended up in Priorat on February 29th, 2004. By all accounts, he spent considerable time imploring Rene Barbier to allow him to spend time working for him. Barbier took him on.
From his time there, Fredi has assisted many winemakers in Spain, and travelled the globe helping others enjoy his religion of the grape. He has interests in Galicia, assists a winemaker in Montsant, collaborates near the fabled Els Angels mountain of Girona with another, and until recently was partnered with a winery in Gratallops.
A decision to split from the previously mentioned Gratallops operation left Fredi with a decision. As he shared with us on the mountain top, he could have gone anywhere in the world. He had offers spilling in from wine regions far and wide, but it was time for him to really settle down and do his own gig. Money wasn’t the driving force or the deciding factor. It was about his heart.
Priorat is where is heart is and here it was he has remained.
He bought his own land on the road between Gratallops and La Vilella Baixa. This land contains a small Masia used by generations in the past to stay during the growing season, land which was rested, unplanted and ready for renewal. Fredi’s planted new vines and those should be ready in a few years. He plans to build onto the masia, for his home and for enough space to perform the work need to bring his wine to fruition, and also has plans for a barrel room in the side of one of his hills.
Fredi talks at length about keeping his venture sustainable, and how others should do the same, including solar power and recycling rainwater. He has a well-known dislike for anything overly mechanical or technological when it comes to making wine, as it disrupts the “music” of the land and what the land sings to him. Tractors for the vines? No sir. He would rather purchase a mule from Alvaro Palacios as his biological tractor. Which he did. Pepe was the name of said mule. Fredi parted company with Pepe when he left the winery in Gratallops and misses the now retired mule very much. He’s bought a new mule from Montsant, and will have him working next fall, after they take the time to get to know each other.
Some may dismiss these overtures as trendy, but Fredi has complete disdain for trendiness, most likely a result of his time in the electronic dance music scene. He spoke with rolling eyes about many wineries in Catalunya throwing around words like biodynamic and organic, many of which don’t believe or understand what this means but latch onto both as a marketing schtick. For him, these methods are because they are the least intrusive to nature. He rues how far humanity has gone in chasing profits and power at the expense of ours and the planet’s collective health. He spoke disparagingly about big corporations and the consequences of their actions on all of us.
The man born in Galicia, raised in Lausanne, and at home in Priorat, is the personification of what we are missing in today’s modern society. Most of us do not get our hands dirty anymore. If we do get them dirty, it’s for a potted plant or a DIY home project with plans from a big box store.
Fredi asked Michael point blank if he had ever planted a tree before, and dug his hands in the dirt as he planted a tree. Before Michael could give Fredi an answer, Fredi’s eyes lit up as he described planting the army of cypress trees that line a path from his mid-hill masia to the top of the ridge where we stood. Fredi described the communion between the planting in the ground with the blue sky overhead and how spiritual an experience it was for him. He revels in nurturing what the earth gives us, to express the beauty of the simple anise dotting his hills, olive trees, almond trees, fruit trees, pine trees, or his beloved cypress trees. They are all part of his personal gospel of the grape.
You see, Fredi has something many of us in this world have yet to find or have lost: devotion. Not only is he passionate about making wine, expressing the best of what nature provides to his terroir, but he is devoted. His devotion isn’t fanatical and it isn’t singleminded. It’s reverential, but still remains only a component of his existence. It is a rather large component, as he’ll smirkily acknowledge, but it hasn’t completely overwhelmed his personal doctrine.
As we enjoyed a bottle of his red, featuring a mix of red Grenache, Carignan, and a dash of Syrah, Fredi shared how he wants to spread the Priorat gospel of the grape, and preach to the masses about how amazing this region is, from his bottled pulpit. If the bottle we enjoyed that fine evening is any indication, I will be most definitely accepting his gospel of the grape. Again and again.
Fredi can expect to see my return, and just maybe I’ll be the one asking him to take me on as a postulant to learn more about his devotional gospel of the grape. I know my hands are just a little too clean these days.
Tim Brown (aka Timmer on social media) has been involved in marketing for over 20 years and a wine enthusiast since his first exposure to Duck Pond Winery in Newberg, Oregon, back in 1995. After coming to Europe in 2012, he made his home in Catalunya in 2013 and became enchanted with the wines and winemakers of the region. Now he shares his experiences so international visitors can enjoy the region’s wines, while continuing his work in the marketing world. Sommeliering and wine snobbery isn´t his thing, and he continues to learn more about wine from a Catalan perspective on a daily basis.