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Ultimate Guide to the Toro Wine Region

Today, the Toro wine region of Spain boasts 55 Denominacion Origen (DO) wineries. See more wine pictures
iStockphoto/Hans Kruse

­If you've heard that the Toro wine region in Spain had only four wineries under its Denominacion Origen (DO) label -- the sign that it meets standards for quality -- in 1987, you might not take it too seriously. If a region ranks among the best in a country, it should have a long history of successful wineries and vineyards, right? While it wasn't known for fine wine fifty years ago, the region has a long history of making famous wines. Today, Toro boasts around 55 DO wineries, making the region a quickly up-and-coming on­e for quality wine [source: Wine Country Getaways].

Toro's history is rich with tales of trade, exploration and royalty. Centuries ago, the area was a hot spot for wine. The region's land was just right for the production of quality wines, and earned it a good reputat­ion for viticulture. That reputation eventually faded, but in the last few years, the region has renewed its focus on winemaking, which has resulted in more DO wines.

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­In the past and even now, Toro was known for its bold red wines. The most famous wines in t­he region are made entirely from Tinta de Toro grapes -- 78 percent of the grapes grown in the region are this variety [source: Vinophoria].

The Toro wine region is rural and lies in central Spain as part of the Castilla y Leon area, not too far to the east of the border with Portugal. The land is quite expansive and full of softly rolling hills. Many of the region's towns are both small and old, full of examples of historic art and architecture. Aside from the region's namesake city, Toro, there are other winemaking centers, including Zamora, Morales de Toro and Venialbo.

We'll take a closer look at some of the interesting historical and cultural points of the Toro wine region next.

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Toro is a city that has been a center of winemaking since before the ancient Romans arrived in the area. During the Middle Ages, Toro exported wine all over Spain. According to the lore, Christopher Columbus even had some with him when he sailed to the Americas -- the wine traveled well and could survive such a long sea voyage.

Many fine examples of architecture have survived over the region's long history, including Romanesque and medieval designs. In addition making a name for itself for its strong wines, the region was also known for education. Before it moved to Salamanca, Spain's first university was located in the town of Toro. There are other educational sites in Toro as well, such as a collegiate church called the Colegiata, which dates to the Middle Ages [source: Cellar Tours].

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In the 19th century, an insect called phylloxera destroyed vineyards in much of the world. Many of Toro's hardy vines survived the blight, and the region was able to export both wine and grapevines to devastated regions in other parts of Europe.

The Toro DO, which is the label given to vineyards and wines that meet government standards, was established in 1987. In the 1990s, Toro started shipping its wines abroad, first to the United Kingdom. Toro wines are also exported to Canada and the United States.

Read the next page to learn about how the agriculture shaped this region in Spain.

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As mentioned on the previous page, the Toro wine region has been quite resilient in the face of blights such as phylloxera. Experts say the reason Toro has been able to avoid this pest is because of its dry, sandy soils. In the southern part of the region, it is typical to find clay below the sandy soils. In the northeast, there are some limestone soils. All these soil types are perfect for growing the Tinta de Toro, since its roots can reach into the soils for moisture [source: Vinophoria].

Aside from the soils, the Toro wine region has other aspects that factor into the area's great viticulture. The Rio Duero creates a floodplain in the Toro region, which can provide the area with essential water. The Rio Duero plays an important role in the vineyards since the region cannot count on rainfall too often. Per year, Toro receives an average of 13 inches (35 cm) of rain [source: Wine Country Getaways].

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The vineyards are usually at high altitudes, around 2,034 to 2,450 feet (620 to 750 meters). It's the height that gives the vineyards cool evenings during the summer, despite having long, hot and dry summers. Winters are cold, with temperatures reaching as low as 12 degrees Fahrenheit (-11 degrees Celsius). Toro can also claim 2,600 to 3,000 hours of sunshine annually, which gives the grapes a chance to ripen properly.

Click to the next page to learn about the world-renowned wines of the Toro wine region.

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It's not out of the ordinary to find wines from the Toro region that have been made with grapes harvested from vines that are more than a century old. It's the history of the vines and their resilience that makes Toro wines stand out. The region's most prevalent grape, Tinta de Toro, is a local variant of the tempranillo, which is also the dominant grape in much of Spain.

Wines made from the Tinta de Toro are dark and more tannic. Toro red wines can sit in their bottles and age for several decades, but that doesn't mean they can't be had earlier. If you want a newer bottle of Toro wine, experts suggest that you pair it with lamb or beef roasts.

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The Tinta de Toro provides wine with a lot of flavor and tones. They are colorful and strong, and some even say the wines have a jammy taste. Some of the few wines that are not 100 percent Tinta de Toro are a result of blending with Garnacha. A blend with 75 percent Tinta de Toro wine is still accepted by the DO. Another red grape grown in the area is Cabernet Sauvignon, but it cannot be blended with the Tinta de Toro and retain the DO appellation [source: Cellar Tours].

Though Toro is noted for its character-driven red wines, the region does still grow a few varieties of white grapes. These include Malvasia and Verdejo.

You can learn more about other wine regions and the history of wine by following the links on the next page.

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Sources:

  • Cellar Tours. "Profile of Wine Region, Toro." (Accessed on 2/14/2009) http://www.cellartours.com/spain/spanish-wine-regions/toro.html
  • Parode, Nancy. "Toro: Spain's Up-and-Coming Wine Region." (Accessed 2/14/2009) http://www.intowine.com/toro-spain-s-and-coming-wine-region
  • Vinophoria. "Toro." (Accessed on 2/14/2009) http://www.vinophoria.com/wineRegionToro.htm
  • Wine Country Getaways. "Tour Spain's Toro Wine Region." (Accessed on 2/14/2009) http://www.winecountrygetaways.com/spain/toro.html

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