Food & Wine Photo Credit: Numanthia Estate

Spirit Guide: Spain’s brawniest new wine region

Right now, there's no more compelling country for wine drinkers than Spain.

Toro Toro Toro

Spain’s brawniest new wine region.

Right now, there’s no more compelling country for wine drinkers than Spain. There’s the iconic region of Rioja fighting a philosophical civil war over traditional versus modern approaches to winemaking. And Ribera del Duero, long used to being known as an upstart region, has come to grips with the idea that they’re now looked upon as the establishment. And then there are the series of “newer” regions, like Toro, anxious to make a name for themselves as Spain’s next big thing.

Now newer is a relative term in Spain. They’ve been growing wine in Toro since the 11th century and were recognized with their own designation in 1987, but it’s only in the last few years that the wines have started to get international recognition. This is in large part due to the efforts of a crusading group of winemakers led by the Eguren family, whose Numanthia is not only the most famous wine in Toro but has quickly become one of the most lauded (and expensive) wines in all of Spain.

Tempranillo is the grape around here (though they use the local name Tinta de Toro), but it has a far more muscular and brawny style than the grape shows when grown in Rioja—the wines actually need to have a minimum alcohol content (12.5 percent) in order to be labelled Toro. Much like the aglianico grape in Italy, modern winemaking techniques and the occasional small addition of grenache/garnacha allows the wine to open up and soften earlier while not losing its fruit-driven heft.

The main trouble has been sourcing the wines over here. Numanthia was recently bought by LVMH and as a result has become easier to find—but not any cheaper, sadly. Their base offering here is the $100 Numanthia (the Termanthia is $250); both are wonderful, age-worthy trophies, but there are plenty of mid-priced Toro wines that let you in on what the region is all about. Chief among these is the 2008 Sabor Real ($17), an outstanding value that gives you an idea of Toro’s heft—there’s a swack of oak and blackberry—and a glimpse of some of its finesse. The truly excellent 2010 Elias Mora ($20) is only a few dollars more, and now you get waves of dark fruit that taste like they were roasted over a mesquite campfire. Both are brawny wines from a region you should frequent.

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