Members of the Algarve Wine Society recently visited the medieval town of Toro – near Zamora in Spain - to taste the wines from that region. Much of the structure of the old town dates from the time of Christopher Columbus who made purchases of Toro wine from the old cellars that are 3 stories beneath street level. In those days there were approximately 1000 cellars that were interconnected and some 60 odd of them still exist today with their original barrels and wine presses. Wine production was hazardous with CO2 build-up a constant problem and the wine quality must have suffered with exposure to the air and storage in goat skins preserved with resin.
Nowadays the situation is vastly different. Forty members of the Society enjoyed visits to some of the top producers in the area including Numanthia and Teso la Monja. Production is mainly red wine made from Tinto de Toro that is a locally grown variety of the grape Tempranillo. Traditionally, the vines were late-harvested in October producing high alcohol wines of 18% but earlier harvesting has led to lower alcohol and better wines. Entry level wines are produced from younger vines that are up to 30 years old whilst the more expensive wines come from vines that are more than 140 years old. There used to be only 6 wineries in the region but now there are over sixty. Major French and Spanish companies have invested heavily resulting in high quality, low yield production. For example the top wine from Teso la Monja is limited to 900 bottles and is priced accordingly. Unfortunately, we couldn’t taste that but members did experience some excellent wines.
At the final gala dinner members were treated to Sevillanas style dancing and then invited to join in resulting in some interesting moves. The dancers had been organised by Nicola Thorton, a Yorkshire lass who has been in Toro for over 20 years and whose company (www.spanishpalate.es) helps to promote small Spanish wineries. She was the local contact who helped organisers David Grindley and Nigel Adams make the visit such a success.