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Looking for the best buys in the world of fine wine? Look no further than the Iberian Peninsula and the wines of Spain. Some of the top wines from Spain — and some of the best values, at that — come from Miguel Torres, the Catalan master. While Torres is an old house (founded in 1870), its modern-day claim to fame largely stems from the 1979 Paris wine Olympiad. It was there that Torres’s 1970 “Mas La Plana” (also known as “Black Label”) was chosen best cabernet sauvignon, causing not a little consternation among Torres’s purported betters from Bordeaux and the Napa Valley. In the years since, the Torres wines seemed to have slipped a bit in reputation, despite winning a fair number of medals at other, lesser international competitions. Now, however, the wines are definitely on the upswing. The range of wines produced by the house is vast: from fairly simple $8 reds and whites made from indigenous Spanish varietals to $100 grand vins. The three standard bearers at the lower end are the Via Sol, made from the white parellada grape; Coronas, made mostly from the red tempranillo; and Sangre de Toro (“bull’s blood”), made from a blend of garnacha (Spain’s version of the Rh�ne Valley varietal grenache) and carinena grapes. For a few dollars more ($12-$15), there’s Gran Vina Sol, a chardonnay-dominated blend that’s been aged for a short period in oak. It’s light and would go nicely with poultry. Gran Sangre de Toro is based on the Garnacha and has an arresting aroma of bitter plum and spices. The best of these medium-priced wines is probably the Gran Coronas, a cabernet-based blend that’s nicely rounded and vanillary. A great bargain after all these years is still the “Mas La Plana” ($35), a 100 percent cabernet sauvignon. The vines in the “Mas la Plana” vineyard are now more than 30 years old, and it shows. The wines have a new layer of added depth. Current vintages are the 1990 and the 1996. The nose on the ’90 is reminiscent of a light Pomerol from Bordeaux; while the lusher, more heavily extracted ’96 could pass for a very good St. Julien. The ’90 is ready for drinking now, but the ’96 could do with three to five more years in bottle. Either would be wonderful with rack of lamb. The newest addition to the Torres line-up is also the most intriguing. After years of tinkering (sometimes brilliantly) with French varietals planted in Spanish soils, Miguel Torres has turned back to his roots. Some 15 years ago, he began replanting long-forgotten indigenous Catalan varietals — monastrell, garnacha tinta, garrós, samsós, and carinena — on the site of an enclosed thirteenth-century Cisterian vineyard, “Grans Muralles.” It has the best soil in Catalonia, claims Torres. The extremely high quality of “Grans Muralles” utterly belies the fact that the vines are so young. Both the ’96 and ’97 ($100 each) are spectacular wines, with the ’96 being especially dark and concentrated. Either would partner well with seared lamb chops bathed in thyme. For an after-dinner drink, try “Jaime I,” a 30-year-old brandy ($95) that’s named, not for a Spanish king, but for the founder of the House of Torres. It’s liquid custard — with a bit of fire mixed in.

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