In partnership with Castilla y LéonDiscover the history and the wine of Toro DO in Castilla y Léon...
In partnership with Castilla y Léon
History Royal cellars and dodging phylloxera
The Toro Denominación de Origen (DO) is named for the town of the same name, found in the Zamora province of northwest Castilla y Léon, just 40 miles from the Portuguese border.
The Duero river flows through Toro, connecting it to the neighbouring wine regions of Rueda and Ribero del Duero.
The Romans brought Vitis vinifera vines to Toro, arriving circa 210 BC. By the Middle Ages, Toro was renowned for its wine production and it was reportedly favoured by the highest in the land, filling the cellars of Spanish kings.
The DO claims it was even taken to the New World by Christopher Columbus, due to the robust wine’s ability to withstand long sea voyages.
When phylloxera hit Europe’s vineyards in the 19th century, Toro held a unique advantage in its poor sandy soils and arid climate, which provided some defence against the parasite. The region exported wine to badly affected areas of France during this period.
Toro still grows ungrafted pre-phylloxera bush vines today and many are over 80 years old.
Tempranillo reigns supreme in Toro, offering a new expression of the wine compared to nearby Ribero del Duero or Rioja. As with many Spanish wine regions, Tempranillo goes by its local name here: Tinto de Toro.
Although there is no historical link between the DO’s name and its style of wine, critics often liken the best examples of Tinto de Toro to a Spanish bull — dark, sleek and richly muscular.
Toro’s summers are typically short, but during this season it becomes one of the hottest and driest wine regions in Spain, with only 350-400mm of rain each year and temperatures pushing 40°C.
In these conditions, altitude is key and the majority of Toro’s vineyards are planted between 620 and 750 metres above sea level.
Nevertheless, wineries must battle to keep alcohol levels down and DO regulations make allowances for up to 15% abv.
Toro does produce some rosé, or rosado, wine, made predominantly from a blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and occasionally Malvasia. Most of the white wine production is left to its neighbour, Rueda, but Verdejo and Malvasia is also grown here.