Those of you who visit us often at Grand Cata know we love Spanish wines. From Rioja to Ribera del Duero to Priorat, some of our favorite wines hail from the bigger of the two countries on the Iberian peninsula (and before you ask, yes, we love Portugal, too!).
For this post, we decided to take a little tour of Toro, a not-quite-as-famous-but-just-as-good region that produces opulent reds. For any of you that prefer the ripeness and richness generally associated with New World regions, like California or Australia, Toro is an Old World region well worth your time.
Like much of Spain, Toro produces reds from a clone of the tempranillo grape. Think of tempranillo as Spain’s answer to both cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir. It’s exceptionally versatile, capable of producing elegant reds similar to the best Burgundies, as well as huge reds in line with California cabernet sauvignon. It all depends on the altitude and heat of the region growing it.
In Toro, they call the grape they use “tinta de Toro.” It wasn’t know, until recently, that it was actually tempranillo. In fact, all over the Iberian peninsula, you can find clones of tempranillo with different names. In Catalonia, for instance, they call it “ull de llebre,” or “eye of the hare.” In Portugal, they call it “tinta roriz” and “aragonez.” So, when you get a bottle of labeled “Tinta de Toro,” you know that its tempranillo from Toro, Spain.
Toro has a “extreme continental” climate, meaning the temperatures vary drastically, both from winter to summer, and from night to day. It also means long, hot summers. This allows the grapes to ripen while maintaining a good balancing acidity. Tempranillo likes to ripen quickly, so the long summer also ensures that inclement weather that comes around at the end of the summer does not affect the grapes. All of this leads to the huge, inky, complex and decadent reds that we love so much!
What other delicious things come from Toro? Cheese, for one thing. Specifically, a hard sheep's milk cheese called “Zamorano,” named after the province of Zamora in which Toro sits. This cheese gets aged for 6 months and is characterized by a sharp, but pleasant, bite. In addition to cheese, expect to find lots of stews and “asados” (grilled dishes). Common ingredients include veal, chickpeas and lentils, and like much of Spain, sausages and cured meats are huge. Specifically, Toro and the rest of Castilla y Leon make exceptional “morcillas,” or blood sausage.
We highly recommend that if you plan to visit Spain, you consider including Toro. Toro is actually a town and municipality in the larger region of Castilla y Leon. Perhaps the most famous Spanish woman in history, Isabella of Castile, was born there. Being right at the edge of the Moorish Empire, Toro has some of the most diverse artistic and architectural stylings in Spain, taking cues from both Christian and Islamic influences. In fact, Toro is the heart of Mudéjar art, a style known for its heavy use of brick and the infusion of Islamic art and architecture into medieval Christian art and architecture. Some of the disciplines that this art encompasses include tile work, wood carving and plaster work.