Friday, October 17, 2008

Interview with Miguel Torres

We’re talking today to Miguel Torres, the patriarch of the Torres family of Spain, and one of the legendary men and wine makers of the world’s Wine industry. Torres is an independent 200 Million-Euro company and is one of the strongest global labels in the world of wine. The word, Torres means tower in English and that’s what was chosen as the family symbol with the wines representing security. Read on for Miguel’s views on friendship, wine, marriage and family, in no particular order!

Q. Part of your mission statement is the line that “you want to be a friend of the customer”. Can you please elaborate.
A. This is something my father used to say. When we walk into a restaurant or supermarket to sell our wines, we want to make a friend. We are there to supply a service. We are there to prove that we can help whenever it is possible. If a customer wants wine delivered on Sunday we will do that. If we can help in spreading the wine culture or support wine education events, then we will be pleased to do that. Being a family business it helps us establish these links. And when these people come to Spain and they visit our vineyards they realize we are friends and little by little this relationship builds up.
Q. As you mentioned, you are currently a family run company, do you ever foresee a situation where you will no longer be a family run business. Do you see any consolidation happening in the wine industry with the multinationals acquiring the independent producers?
A. No. We will always be a family run company. I definitely hope so. No, No, we have to stay independent. Of course there are multinationals in wine, but wine is not such an exciting business for them, because the profits are not so high and you have to look long term. You have to make investments for the long term, 10 years, 15 years. It’s not something, which can attract companies that are in the stock market. They have to look for the short term.

Q. Could you please tell us something about your presence in India? How would you compare it with other markets in Asia?
A. We began selling wine in India in the mid 90’s and we set up a joint venture company called Torres, Thapar and Grant (TT&G) in 2001 with the Gautam Thapar group and the Grant family from Scotland (makers of Glenfarclas Single Malt). Last year we sold about 5000 cases in India with a value of maybe around 200,000 Euro (around 2.5 % of the estimated 200,000 cases of foreign wine sold in India). We sell around 30,000 cases in China and around 100,000 cases in Japan. India is small, but growing and is a market for the future. We plan to invest around 1 million Euro in growing our presence in India. There are 3 giants for the future, China, India and Brazil.
Q. What does Torres mean by Single Vineyards? Is the yield less here than your normal vineyards. Do you practice any organic wine making?
A. Single Vineyards is the perfect combination of the vine (what we call the vinifer), the soil and the climate. The yield here is less than half the normal vineyard’s yield. We practice some organic wine making in Chile and in the future in Spain. We believe in sustainable cultivation and the use of natural ingredients.
Q. Have you tasted Indian wine? Your opinion. Like you’ve expanded your company by setting up vineyards in Chile and California, might you expand into India at some point in time?
A. I’ve tasted wine from India. From Bangalore and from Nashik. They are good wines and they are getting better. They will get even better if the import duties are reduced. India has tremendous protectionism. Here you have the highest duties for wine in the world. And this is not to the benefit of the local production. It may be protectionism for today, but in the long term, it is not helping the quality.
I haven’t visited the vineyards in India, so I can’t comment on the climatic and soil conditions. We may enter India at some point. Not now, but may be in the near future. It’s not something we are considering now.
Q. You’ve visited many countries across Asia and you’ve seen the growth in wine consumption. What do you think are the factors, which will help the same in India?
A. Well I think, firstly wine has to be made available; the price has to be reasonable. And today, the price of wine in India is far too high. You have the highest duties in the world. You pay 8 Euros in India for a bottle of Grover’s. That’s far too much and it’s because of the heavy duties. It was the same in China in the 90’s. We had high import duties of around 75% and today the duty rate is 15%. And today Chinese wine is booming. It’s getting better and better. Because they are competing. I think Indian wine should not be afraid of competition.
Q. There’s a lot of talk nowadays about new ways to close wine bottles like the screw cap. What methods do you use?
A. We use cork. In some export markets, we use the screw cap. For white wines, mostly. It depends on the culture of the market. In Spain or in France, people don’t like the screw cap. There are strong traditions, so we don’t dare to touch!
I think the screw cap is ok for white wines, for rose wines, which are to be drunk in one year or so, but I don’t think we’ll use the screw cap for red wines, which we are planning to age for 5 years or more like the Mas La Plana (Torres Cabernet Sauvignon wines, and winner of the Paris Wine Olympiad, 1979). I think there is a limit.
Q. What would your choice of one wine be, if you were on a desert island?
A. (Laughs).. Well I’ll give you an answer. My father used to say, “In life, you must have only one woman, but you can have many, many wines”, so this is my answer, and my father also used to add, “And it’s going to cost you much less”.