By Robin Alix Austin
With a name like Toro, you’d expect this region in Spain to produce big and bold wines. That’s one element of the wines of Numanthia – red wines that have intense dark fruit flavors and massive tannic structure. Yet these wines also have elegance and finesse, a bull and a matador coming together in a show of artistry.
The matador of Numanthia is Manuel Louzada, a winemaker who is able to reel in, tame and refine the Tinta de Toro grape. This is a variation of Tempranillo that has adapted to the hot climate of Toro. Compared to Tempranillo, Tinta de Toro has thicker skin and a darker color.
Toro is located northwest of Madrid in the western area of Castile and Léon. It has a continental climate with long, hot summers and little rain. In Toro harvesting grapes at just the right time is extremely important for preserving the fresh fruit flavors and maintaining an appropriate alcohol content in the wine. As harvest approaches, Manuel tastes the grapes every two to three days to determine when they are ready to be picked.
Manuel shared a taste of Numanthia’s current releases while in town for the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. Numanthia was one of the few non-American wineries and the only Spanish winery participating in the weekend of wine events.
Numanthia was founded in 1998 and pays tribute to the area’s heroic past. The estate took its name from the towns of Numancia and Tiermes, whose people resisted Roman invasion in 134 BC by preferring death to surrender. Numanthia’s vines are strong too, resisting the Phylloxera outbreak that devastated Europe’s vineyards in the late 1800s.
During the High Museum Wine Auction, Numanthia’s wine held its own among the numerous full-bodied Napa Cabernets. All made entirely from Tinta de Toro grapes, these are wines so intense and mouth-filling you’ll almost want to chew them before you swallow.
The first wine Manuel shared was the 2009 Termes, made with grapes that were harvested from 30 to 50 year old vines. The wine spent 16 months in oak barrels.
Manuel’s aim with the Termes was to capture the lively and fresh fruit that he tasted in the vineyards. Deep magenta in color, the wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry, plum and fig layered with cinnamon, vanilla and tobacco. Chewy tannins give the wine a pleasant weight in the mouth.
The second wine Manuel shared was the 2008 Numanthia. The grapes for this wine came from 60 to 100 year old vines. The wine spent two years in new French oak barrels and another year in bottles before it was released.
With this wine you still find the fresh fruit of the Termes but it is enhanced by additional flavors of white pepper, molasses, cloves, dark chocolate, black tea and licorice. The texture is just as intense as the flavor, with sweet tannins and a crushed velvet mouthfeel.
The final wine was a showstopper. Speaking about the 2008 Termanthia Manuel said, “I feel honored to make a wine like this.”
The grapes for the Termanthia came from vineyards that were planted between 1870 and 1890. Manuel used delicate winemaking techniques to produce this wine including destemming by hand and “pisado,” stomping the grapes by foot during fermentation. The skins were so thick, said Manuel, that the men were able to stand at the top of the vats without their feet sinking in.
The wine went through two series of aging in new French oak barrels, spending a total of 20 months in oak.
The 2008 Termanthia is a wine you could spend hours describing. Complex aromas of blackberry, cedar, cocoa and spice expand and evolve on the palate. Layers of black cherry, cassis, clove, mocha, truffle and vanilla add depth, while delicate flavors of rose and violet add elegance. Concentrated yet silky tannins give the wine a lively mouthfeel, and the finish has long lingering notes of black fruit and spice.
This is the kind of wine that makes you crave a steak – and demands the finest dry aged cut. It’s a wine you want to sip all evening, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the intricate flavors and how it changes over time in the glass.
To learn more about Numanthia visit www.numanthia.com.
This is part of a series of articles on wines from the High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction. Click here to read more.