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Home | Spain | Toro - The next big thing?

Toro - The next big thing?

Tucked into a small corner of the large autonomous state of Castile and León in northwest Spain, Toro is an ever-increasingly popular wine region within the Iberian country.  Located just over 40 miles from the Portuguese border, Toro lies just to the west of another famous Spanish wine region, Ribera del Duero, and is influenced by the Duero River as it carves it way through the Iberian Peninsula to empty into the Atlantic at Porto.  And even though Toro was only recently granted Denominación de Origen (DO) status in 1987, wine has been made here for more than 2000 years.  In fact, the ancient Greeks brought the vine to the region in the 1st century B.C.  In the subsequent millennia, Toro became an important wine region, especially in the Middle Ages when several religious orders oversaw a thriving wine trade.  More recently, the wines from Toro were regarded much like other Spanish wine - simple and rustic.  But like some of their neighbors, Toro has benefitted from a new wave of winemakers intent of elevating this historic region.

The Wines of Toro
Duero river view from Toro
Duero river view from Toro

Just like those other famous Spanish winegrowing regions, Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Tempranillo rules the roost in regards to the vineyard space of Toro.  Yet there is a slight variation as Tinta de Toro, a strain of Tempranillo, is the actual grape used.  It is apropos for the region's wines considering that “Toro” in Spanish is translated to “bull” in English and its wines display a big, muscular creation.  But there may be a new style on the way with the influx of new enological minds.  Garnacha is the other permitted red variety and it generally is used in small amounts depending on the winemaker's preference.

The other important aspect of Toro's wines, other than the grape variety, is the age classification. Similar to other wine regions, Toro has established the following categories:

- Joven: translated to “young” these are easy-going wines on the lighter side that are meant to be consumed rather early.

- Roble: slightly older than Joven with more Garnacha in the blend.

- Crianza: wines that are aged for two years with a minimum of six months spent in oak barrel.

- Reserva: wines that are aged for three years with a minimum of one year spent in oak barrel.

- Gran Reserva: wines that are aged for five years with a minimum of two years in oak barrel.

In addition to red wines, Toro also produces rosé wines made from Tinta de Toro and Garnacha, usually with a 50/50 split. A small amount of white table wine is also made in Toro with Malvasia and Verdejo producing off-dry styles.

Growing Grapes in Toro

The climate in Toro is marked by long, hot summers with little rainfall and cold winters.  This continental climate explains the robust style of its red wines as grapes have ample time to fully mature and develop concentrated flavors.  That maturation can produce some high alcoholic wines (the DO regulations allow up to 15% alcohol by volume) but many winemakers temper that aspect and harvest grapes before sugar levels spiral to frightening heights.  The hot, sun-drenched atmosphere also explains why there is little white wine as many delicate varieties would invariably wither in those conditions.  Toro benefits from the nearby Duero River, not only for a consistent water supply but also the slight influence from the Atlantic Ocean funneled up the river valley.  Most vineyards are planted between 2000-2800 feet, allowing cool night breezes to give the vine a break and retain some necessary acidity.  This combination of climatic elements has attracted some serious interest from investors with deep pockets that believe Toro may be on the verge of becoming one of the world's best wine regions.  So drink up now before prices explode.

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·  Priorat - the Tiny Gem of Catalonia
·  Grenache - Out of Obscurity
·  Tempranillo - The Iberian King


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