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Tannic Panic! Issue #2: Happy International Value Week
All Toro, No Bull: Unmasking the Underdog
Are you one of those people who likes to spend your entire paycheck on wine? Yeah… heheh.. neither am I *looks around nervously* — which is why when I find a bottle of wine that delivers top notch value, I start doing the happy dance. Well, today we’re talking EXTREME value in the form of Toro. But make sure you hold your glass gingerly between your shaky little meat hooks, because this wine is apt to rev up its hooves and charge at you like a hangry steer.
The Toro D.O. (D.O. = Denominación de Origen) wine region – nestled in the heart of the Castilla y Leon region in north-western Spain – is one of Spain's best-kept vinicultural secrets, quietly producing some of the country's boldest wines for centuries, dating back to Roman times.
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Toro wines are made predominantly from Tinta de Toro (a local clone of the Tempranillo grape). Low rainfall and extreme temperature fluctuations produce wines with high intensity and depth of flavor, and higher alcohol – often exceeding 14% .
FUN FACT: The region's sandy soils allowed it to escape the phylloxera epidemic (a scourge of root eating parasites) that absolutely devastated European vineyards in the 19th century, making many of Toro's vineyards some of the oldest ungrafted vines in the world. [For reference, see scientifically accurate depiction of phylloxera eating grape roots below]
Profiles range from dark fruit flavors, like blackberry and plum, to ripe red fruits, such as strawberries and cherries, often accompanied by distinct notes of spice and tobacco.
Enough small talk – let’s dive into the juice.
Get out your little mechanical pencils, give them a few clicks and write this down: 2020 La Enferma Tempranillo. That’s right, this ones a zinger and it’s practically free ($10-12 at Total Wine & More). Frankly one of the best wines out there at this price point right now and I will kill you if you don’t try it.
La Enferma is a 100% Tempranillo from Toro D.O. and sports a healthy 15% ABV – but no need to duck that ethanol-soaked slap in the face you might be worried about; this puppy put on the kid gloves and promises to be gentle with you.
It’s surprisingly complex on the nose with prominent aromas that continue to develop for hours (even days) after opening the bottle. Ripe fruit and spice notes – black cherry, blackberry, prunes, leather, cloves and cacao. On the palate, it's a beautifully balanced full-bodied wine with lush acidity and rich tannins. The alcohol is high but not overpowering, and it's subtly oaked.
It's a bone-dry wine that pairs amazingly with spaghetti and sautéed trumpet mushrooms in a garlicky wine sauce we made using this wine (let us know in the comments or send us a note if you want the recipe!).
The fact that the price point comes near $10 is insane, James Suckling scored this wine 92 points and I’m inclined to agree with him – but if bonus points were awarded for value, we’d be flirting with 93.
Now get out there and slam your little corkscrew into a few of these geezers. You won’t regret it.
[UPDATE 08-15-2023: As of recently, I am only seeing the 2021 vintage of La Enferma at Total Wine, which unfortunately does not deliver the same quality as the 2020 reviewed here. For the low price, it is still a solid bottle but it doesn’t stand up to the wine reviewed for this post, so please be sure to check the vintage when buying. If you are lucky enough to find a 2020 at this stage, then it is an absolute MUST buy. In fact — clear them out and send a few cases my way. Cheers!]
2017 Romanico Tinta de Toro (Double value surprise!)
Another vinous equivalent of finding a forgotten twenty-dollar bill in the pocket of your only pair of stomping pants. Enter stage left: Romanico Tinta de Toro – $13.
We’re talking ripe, raisinated fruits – a tango of strawberries and plums, proudly flaunting their spicy undergarments, and you've got a front-row seat to the show. The oak saunters in like a gladiator entering the colosseum with its trusty sidekicks: vanilla and brown sugar. A keen nose might pick up subtle whispers of wet leaves — a nod to the age of this Toro, and a testament to its journey from the vineyard to your glass.
Medium+ acidity, and medium+ tannins — softer and subtler than the roaring, chewy tannins we found in the 2020 La Enferma Tempranillo; not quite as well-rounded or balanced structurally, but holding its own with a distinct charm that's hard to ignore.
There's a slightly bitter aftertaste, but pair this bad boy with a savory meal – try a Tikka Masala or Aloo Gobi from your local Indian joint – and all you’ll taste is Spanish deliciousness (oh yeah, and Indian food).
90 points. [NOTE: this wine improves markedly given several hours to open up]
2019 Bodegas Vatan Triton Tinta de Toro (Triple value surprise!)
OH JOY – one more bottle that won't have you weeping into your flimsy little wallets: The 2019 Bodegas Vatan Triton Tinta de Toro.
I hear you asking, "But, oh wise snob of the grape, what could possibly be so special about a $20 bottle?" Well you little fact checkers, allow me to inform: this Spanish corksucker offers value that would make even the stingiest little nickle-scratcher leap into his coin purse with glee (for the sake of this experiment, we’re pretending you aren’t already in an exclusive committed relationship with La Enferma).
Oh yeah, and with a formidable 15% ABV (IT’S HOT!), this puppy has more kick than a disgruntled donkey, but it pulls off the trick with a style that deserves admiration.
An intense wave of ripe, raisinated dark fruit greases you up for the Greco Roman wrestling match you’re about to walk into. Dried blueberries, black currants, and blackberries, holding a sultry hint of charcoal and chocolate in a full-Nelson. Balanced oxidation brings to mind a well-matured port, but without the sugar. The kind of maturity that makes you sit back and think, "Well, aren't we grown-up?" (we aren’t).
Palate? Full+ bodied (trust me, that's a thing) and dense (like my faculties). Balanced nicely with a medium acidity and tannin structure, and rounding off with a reasonably long finish that reminds you your glass is still there.
As for the dimensionality, let’s just say it’s a hedonic wine, not a deeply layered “thinking wine” — and its hot 15+% ABV will help you not to think about it.
If you prefer the ripe, extracted and dark fruit forward style, this might be the frontrunner of the episode. But don’t take our word for it – go out there and give it a try.
The quick and easy way to frame Toro in contrast to the styles of some of Spain’s better known Tempranillo producing regions (e.g. Rioja or Ribera del Duero) is to remember this: VALUE (less of a monetary premium paid on quality), robust, muscular flavors, and less delicate/refined.
So what are you waiting for? ¡Andalé papi!
Let’s pop some Toro.
E Pluribus Unum, (P.L.U.R.),
Isaac & Zach
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