Tour de Spain: Toro
This post is going to take us to the Middle Ages of Spain. You may want to throw on your Game of Thrones reading playlist for this. Everyone has one of those....right? In the 11th and 12th centuries (years 1001 through 1200. Full disclosure, I had to google that), a grape called Tinta de Toro -- an alias of our good friend, Tempranillo -- was cultivated and made into fine wine in Northwestern Spain in a region known as Toro. The wines from Toro ignited the wine trade in the area surrounding the River Duero and the reputation of Toro grew throughout Spain.
The region is a small one and to date only 59 wineries are located in Toro, many of which still make use of very old vines. The soil of Toro is sandy, making the vineyards resistant to phylloxera, which is a tiny, vine-destroying louse that will strike terror into the heart of any winegrower. The sand irritates the eyes of this devil bug, so it avoids earth that has a high sand content. Because of the sandy terrain, Toro was never affected by the phylloxera epidemic of the 19th century that hit most of Europe, so it is home to some incredibly old vines!
You may remember this from my past posts about Tempranillo in this sereies (here and here), but it's a grape that requires a contrast of hot and cold temperatures to ripen properly. The same goes for Tinta de Toro since it is a clone of Tempranillo - the main difference being that it has thicker skin than Tempranillo. Toro has hot and dry summers with temperatures peaking at nearly 100 degrees Farenheit, and it's cut off from the cooling influence of the sea by a mountain range. So, the grapes here rely on altitude to get those cool nights they crave. The vineyards get a lot of sunlight, which leads to a really powerful, full-bodied wine that can sometimes reach crazy levels of alcohol, causing you to rethink pouring yourself that
third second glass. The local wine laws cap the ABV at 15%, however.
In case you're wondering, the lovely bottle of wine that I'm featuring for this post has an ABV of 14%, just shy of headache territory. Monte Hiniesta Toro 2009 is made with vines that are over 75 years old and, fun fact, the winemaker likes to play classical music to his wines as they mature because he believes that it brings a sense of harmony to them. Personally, I'd also be blasting some Biggie and Beyoncé to make the wines both sassy and classy. Anyhow, this wine showed a lot of black cherry flavors, along with blackberry, plum, beets, and vanilla. It's a full bodied wine with nice round tannins and a good level of acidity to balance the deep flavors. The aromas and flavors were a little tight when I first uncorked the bottle, but once the wine got some air the flavors really opened up. So, let this one breathe for a bit and I think you'll find that it's very yummy! I always strive to feature wines that are a good value and this one definitely falls into that category at $15.99.
And that's Toro, my friends!