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Part 5 of the Spanish Series – Off to Toro and the Wines of Bodegas Farina

LogoAfter spending time with several producers in Rioja (see the last Rioja blog here), let’s take a journey west, into the high plateau of Castilla y Leon, to one of the rising stars of Spanish wines, and the region around the town of Toro.  Toro sits on the banks of the Duero River, just a few miles from the Portuguese border.  From here the Duero River runs west to the border, forms part of it for a stretch, and then turns west again, now as the Douro River, to travel through the Portuguese highlands as it makes its way, eventually, past the vineyards near the great Port Houses,  the town of Oporto and finally into the the Atlantic Ocean.  Traditional winemaking in Toro involved big, high alcohol reds with over extracted fruit.  Toro MapThis was primarily due to harvest being started on the 12th of October every year, without deviation.  This is a hot land, and the grapes reach what would be considered optimal ripeness well before that date.  Going way back, this area’s wine reputation traces to the pre-Roman era.  For some time Toro carried royal privileges due to its wine, and they sent it via ship to the New World in the 16th century and to phylloxera ravaged France in the 19th century.  Throughout most of the 20th century Toro maintained the late harvest, high alcohol reds it was known for.  To emerge and carve a place in the modern wine industry, something would have to change.

In the 1979-1980 time frame, Manuel Fariña, of Bodegas Fariña, began that change.  The family had been making wine in Toro since 1942, and Bodegas Fariña is the oldest operating winery in the area.  Manuel recognized the need for change, driven by a preference in the wine world for lower alcohol wines, certainly lower than the Toro standard.  The trend in the wine consumer has steadily continued to lower bodega_nochealcohol, fresher fruit profiles and balancing acid.  To achieve some of this, Manuel moved the harvest date forward by almost a month, picking grapes when the sugar and phenolic ripeness were optimum.  He encina_centenaria_en_la_vinaintroduced stainless fermentation tanks, new cooperage and a philosophy of attentive quality in the vineyards and throughout the winemaking operation.  De-stemming was also introduced, helping to eliminate the green and woody notes that can creep in from the stems.  Due to all of these innovations Manuel is considered by many to be the “founding father” of the modern Toro region, and Bodegas Fariña is a leading name in Spanish wine.  In 1987, Toro received the Denomination of Origin (DO) designation, which now regulates and guarantees the wine from over 50 wineries.  You can learn much more about Toro at http://www.dotoro.com/en/.

Today the Fariña family makes several lines of wines, primarily from their 300 hectares ( about 750 acres) of vineyards on the high altitude, flat plateau of Castilla y Leon.  They also work with partner farmers in the area, some of whom still have old, pre-phylloxera bush vines, as old as 140 years.  While most of the production is pretty classical, modern Toro in style, Bodegas Fariña also creates small batches of experimental wines from some more eccentric grape varieties.

Their Toro lines include Gran Colegiata, Dama de Toro and Spanish Sons Tempranillo (which includes some grapes from a neighboring DO).  They also make wines from the Tierra de Leon DO.

We have the Spanish Sons Tempranillo and wines from the Dama de Toro line to review, which means we are fortunate indeed.  Here are the wines.

2014 Bodegas Fariña Spanish Sons – this wine does not carry the Toro DO designation, as some of the grapes come from the IMG_1040neighboring Tierra del Vino de Zamora DO.  It is 100% Tempranillo, or Tinta de Toro as it is known locally.  Approximately half of the fruit comes from very old bush vines planted between 50 and 120 years ago.  The other half or so come from more traditionally trellised vineyards, planted by Manuel Fariña 20-30 years ago.  The crush is macerated for 7 days, and the wine spends four months in oak barrels (mostly American oak with some French).  Our thoughts:

This wine is a deep, rich ruby color with a big nose of red berries, oak and coffee.  On the palate it is full bodied, with rich, ripe fruit.  The fruit carries the day, with accents of oaky notes and complex flavors.  The finish is long.  This is a robust red wine, perfect for a grilled steak or a barbecue.  At $13.99 retail you get a lot of wine for the money.

Now we’ll switch to the Dama de Toro line,  and look at three very different reds as well as an unusual white.

2014 Bodegas Fariña Dama de Toro Malvasia – Malvasia is not a grape most wine drinkers may be familiar with.  We have not had a IMG_1054broad exposure to the grape ourselves.  That needs to change.   The grapes for this wine come from bush vines up to 100 years old.  They see a cool, short maceration of 12 hours before they go into stainless tanks for temperature controlled fermentation. What did we think?

This wine is very pale straw colored, with green hints.  There is a beautifully fresh fruit nose, and apple leads the charge.  It has a crisp texture, some minerality and great balance.  The finish is clean and quite long.  This has pretty much everything you want in a well made, refreshing white wine.  The fruit profile is a little different.  You might want to take a break from your everyday Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay and try this.  Well made, and a good value at a suggested retail of $14.99.

2014 Bodegas Fariña Dama de Toro Tempranillo – this is a blend of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Garnacha, and all the fruit is from the IMG_1052Fariña estate.  The vines average about 20 years in age.  The fruit macerates for 7 days, and then it is fermented in stainless steel and bottled.  This red wine sees no oak.  Here is our impression:

The color is a rich, purple red.  On the nose there is a huge wave of ripe fruit, with cherry and blackberry.  The palate is all about the fruit, and actually the wine in general is all about the fruit.  It’s a fairly young wine, and meant to drink that way, but it will last a few years yet.  If you let it open up a bit in the glass it really gets good, with cherry and raspberry flavors that hold up beautifully through the mid-palate.  This has nicely integrated tannins and finishes really long.  Overall it is just delicious.  I would decant it a bit or let it sit in the glass for 20 minutes to get the full experience.  Well done, and $14.99.  Great value wine at that price.

2013 Bodegas Fariña Dama de Toro Barrel Aged Tempranillo – the same blend as the prior wine, with 95% Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) and 5% IMG_1029Garnacha, this wine does indeed see oak.  From approximately 30 year old vines, all grapes are hand harvested, destemmed and see seven days of maceration.  Then the wine sits in barrel for four months.  Half the barrels are French, and half are American.  Only 20% of the oak is new.  Our thoughts:

This wine is a vibrant purple out of the bottle initially.  On the nose are darker, ripe fruits, leather, oak and vanilla.  This smells savory.  It is full bodied, with some meaty tones on the palate and brisk tannins.  It is very long.  In your face, big and bold wine here.  Think grilled meats and barbecue.  It is not shy.  Suggested retail of $19.99.

2010 Bodegas Fariña Gran Dama de Toro – this is a flagship wine, the vines are 80-90 years old and on the Fariña estate.  MacerationIMG_1053 is a long 25 days.  The blend is very slightly different, with 94% Tinta de Toro and 4% Garnacha.  After completing fermentation in stainless steel, it undergoes the second, malolactic fermentation in 16,000 liter wood tanks, custom built for Bodegas Fariña.  Finally it is aged in 70% American and 30% French oak barrels for 15 months.  We were looking forward to this.

A deep, ruby red wine and brilliant, it sports a nose of intense fruit, with cherry and red berries.  There is some spice, vanilla and smoke.  In fact, you should read the fact sheet for this wine as this is one of those rare occurrences when we completely agree with the winemaker’s description.  On the palate it is elegant and rich, with some tobacco joining the party.  It is long, smooth and pretty great.  This is a beautiful wine, carries a suggested retail of $59.99, and is worth it.

manos_uvasToro is an ancient wine making region which has emerged onto the world stage in the last two decades.  New attention to quality winemaking has enabled them to make the most of their considerable natural resources.  Here we have seen some wines from a family that led the region’s charge into modern wine making.  They range from traditional styles, to an unoaked and wonderful red, and a world class Tinta de Toro.  Don’t forget about the white as well!

To learn much more about the wines of Bodegas Fariña please visit http://www.bodegasfarina.com/.

Bodegas Farina is imported to the US by Quintessential Wines, and you can see more of their expansive portfolio at www.quintessentialwines.com.

We have so much more to cover from the wines of Spain, and will feature another producer soon.

To see the previous installment in the Spanish Series click here.

To see the first article in this series click here.

On we go.

A votre sante!

1 comment to Part 5 of the Spanish Series – Off to Toro and the Wines of Bodegas Farina

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