Bodegas Fariña, DO Toro




When visiting Bordeaux a few years ago our friend arranged a couple of Châteaux visits. He knew that I am involved in the wine world and that Claire used to teach English to several of the Directors of a number of the Châteaux. We were both very keen – the more so when we learned that one of the Châteaux was the world famous and super-elite Mouton Rothschild!

I felt sorry for our host, the visit was dreadful. It’s not the wine that I didn’t like – of course! It was the nature of the visit.

Our guide was pretty in looks, and pretty hopeless in guiding! Clearly she had no real idea about wine – oh yes, she’d read and learned the guiding manual and regurgitated it efficiently for our small group. But that was it! There was no back-up knowledge, no ability to answer sensible questions, no real interest and certainly no passion (for wine, I mean!).

What an amazing contrast I’ve just experienced at the family owned Bodegas Fariña, founding winery of DO Toro! I’ve never had a better wine tour and it’s unlikely I ever will!

I have to admit that ours perhaps wasn’t the norm – for a start our ‘guide’ was Nicola (from Sheffield, but we forgave her!) who is in fact the Export Director of the company and travels the globe, promoting Fariña wines, of course, but also the whole DO Toro. She really should be on the Consejo Regulador’s payroll!

Another example of why ours was probably not the regular wine tourism visit (though I’m certain that this is excellent too!) was also Nicola related. We met her at the winery at 11:00 hrs where she jumped onto our coach and took us to the vineyards. She left us at about midnight at the last of the bars which forms the DO Toro Ruta del Vino! Now that is well above the call of duty! Thirteen hours – amazing, and really appreciated!

I first met Nicola when I was part of a triumvirate running the CB Wine Club. She was then working for another DO Toro winery and similarly enthusiastic about their wines too – that’s the nature of this enterprising young lady! It wasn’t long before she was headhunted, by the Fariña family where I guess she has now been for about 15 years.

Our first wine, tasted in almost freezing temperatures, which in fact none of us minded, so warming was Nicola’s presentation and passion, was a sparkling wine – a surprise to me. Aromatic with some yeasty notes and a floral tone running throughout, it’s made with Malvasia, as is the Fariña still white wine. A good start.


 She told us of the family’s influence on wine making in the area and of how Señort Fariña single-handedly convinced the powers that be in Madrid to grant the area Denominación de Origen status. DO Toro was now on the Spanish wine map – and after consistent success, particularly in the export market (no surprise there, as Nicola has clearly made a huge impact), the Fariña name became established.

This success made others believe they could do the same and there are now several bodegas making top class wine – including the equal most expensive wine in Spain! Rags to riches, or what? And it couldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the Fariña family.

So, does that mean that Fariña wines are scarily expensive? Not a bit of it – the mantra here is value for money, always, from flagship to entry level, an excellent price/quality ratio.

For example, back at the bodega, where a large tasting room had been prepared for us, we were all knocked out by the pretty colour, the loganberry aroma and strawberry/raspberry flavour of the Colegiata Rosado – disbelieving, at first, it’s modest 4€ only price tag!

We tasted all the Fariña wines (that’s a large portfolio and there won’t be space to include them all here) – six or so at a relatively formal tasting and the rest over a magnificent, traditional lunch. Of course, we each had our favourites, but there wasn’t one that was disappointing.


 The much loved variety in DO Toro is Tinta de Toro (aka Tempranillo). The soils and micro-climate of Toro are so different from La Rioja, which many think of as Tempranillo’s natural home, that we could all be forgiven for thinking it a different variety altogether.

Many years ago the name of the variety that had adapted so well to Toro was not known – so, the pragmatic locals called it simply ‘Tinta de Toro’, not realising that it was actually Tempranillo. The name stuck.

The grape produced here is almost unrecognisable from that produced from the same variety in Rioja and indeed in other areas of Spain. It’s smaller with a thicker skin, thus the red Toro wines are very dark in colour. At night there is a dramatic drop in temperature during the growing season, causing the berries to dilate and contract which changes the aromatic profile.

Primero is a young wine – it’s the first wine to be produced by the bodega each year, and like Beaujolais Nouveaux its arrival on the shelves is trumpeted far and wine. However, unlike most Beaujolais Nouveaux, this is a quality wine! Also, on the label it proudly displays a reproduction of the winning entry in the annual Abstract Art Competition. Carbonic Maceration makes this wine typically fruit driven.


 Priced at just 4€ the Colegiata Tinta de Toro is all dark berry on the nose and palate with some lovely violet aromas and delightful liquorice twist on the finish. Gran Colegiata Roble has some oak as this wine is also used to ‘seal’ new oak barrels ready for making the top wines in the following year. It’s a win-win-wine situation as this partially aged wine gains a rich and fruity depth whilst preparing the barrels for the finer wine to come!

At lunch, the flagship wines were served – the Gran Colegiata Reserva 2008 priced at an amazing value for money 12€; and for me, the wine I most love from this excellent bodega, Gran Colegiata Campus! Some might think that at 22€ this is an expensive wine, but I assure you, if this wine was made in another, supposedly more illustrious area, it would probably command twice the price! It’s top class!


 You’ll be able to read more about Bodegas Fariña and the wines I haven’t had the space to mention at . You’ll also be able to buy! You can also read a little more about DO Toro and its part in Columbus’ discovery of the Americas on my blog – click Blog.

Contact Colin: and via Twitter @colinonwine. Also don’t forget to view Colin’s Youtube videos: search Colin Harkness On Wine!

Dinner/Wine Pairing Event 08/05/15

All confirmed for the Gourmet Dinner Event including the top wines of Bodegas Castaño (, DO Yecla, and the beautiful Music of Dolce Divas (

Excellent menu with super wines and wonderful music! Life is good!

Wines will be presented by Señor Daniel Castaño, Export Director of this leading family owned bodega.

At the time of writing we have an extra 4 seats available: Friday 8th May, Swiss Hotel Moraira, arrive 20:00 hrs for 20:30 hrs start. Price just 47€!

Please e-mail or call 0034 629 388 159 to reserve!

Columbus’ Wine Bar Circa 1492!


So, what was Christopher Columbus’ favourite tipple aboard his flagship, Santa Maria (or was he actually on La Niña or La Pinta, the other two ships comprising his mini-fleet?) when he left Spain on his historic voyage to discover ‘The Indies’?

Of course history tells us that in fact he was wrong about where he actually landed – he’d thought he had discovered Asia, but in fact it was what we now call the Bahamas, gateway to North America, where he first set foot.

A journey of discovery such as his was perhaps fraught with dangers unknown to man at that time. Indeed, according to many contemporaries of his day, it would be a journey to certain death as the ship was bound to fall off the edge of the world, the Earth being flat, of course!

Well, considering the stress he and his crew (in fact on the, unknown to them, penultimate day of the voyage they were just one day away from either returning to Spain, or mutiny!) you can well understand the need for a drink! The more so, when we learn that the fresh water had gone bad and that alcohol was the only thing that could satisfy a thirst.

Good job Columbus had included in his provisions many large oak barrels full of wine! And the wine? Which wine was it that was drunk on this formidable, game-changing journey? And indeed, which wine therefore was it that was first consumed in the New World?

Street Level in Toro - the entrance to an amazing and historic cellar!
Street Level in Toro – the entrance to an amazing and historic cellar!

  Several metres below a fairly unprepossessing calle (street) in Toro, western Spain, there lies dormant an ancient, very small winery. At street level and above there lives a tiny 94 year old Spaniard, Gildo – a delightful gentleman and the last surviving descendant of Bishop Alonso Manso.

The entrance hall of Gildo’s house, sitting atop Christopher Columbus’ Wine Bar!

At the time of Columbus’ momentous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, Alonso Manso was the Canon of Salamanca, a man who, although he didn’t know it, was on the fast-track to fame. Gildo’s, now famous, relative was responsible for helping Christopher Columbus with his provisions for the journey he was about to make.

Going down!
Going down!

I think it’s true to say that the small group I had brought to Gildo’s cellar, under the guidance of Nicola, the Export Director of Bodegas Fariña, and I were in awe when we negotiated the uneven steps down to the depths of the cellar. It was here that Alonso Manso and Christopher Columbus tasted the wine and agreed on its price before it was transported to the waiting fleet!

And Down!
And Down!

So, in answer to the questions above – the wine that was first drunk in the Americas, as well as on the journey, of course, was Toro wine! Wine that we now know was made from the Tinta de Toro black grape variety, which is actually Tempranillo – the famous and most planted variety of Spain!

Nicola, Export Director of Bodegas Fariña with one of the ancient casks, a contemporary of those used by Christopher Columbus (not Nicola, the cask!)

So, when enjoying the super, rich and darkly coloured wines of DO Toro you’re also taking part in history!

“Evening, Chris – the usual?”

“Yes, please, Alonso – but just a ‘pinta’*, thanks – I’m going sailing tomorrow!”


* Watch this space re the Spanish Pinta and the UK Pint!

On Oak Blog; and IWSC Blog

I have read your reply on the blog, Colin, thank you for a considered and insightful response. I will watch developments with great interest. [please see Blog Page re use of oak and oak essence(!) in wine making]

Glad to see you enjoyed your time at IWSC 2015 [please see Blog Page re report on IWSC 2015]. I am very interested to find-out which Spanish wineries/wines achieved gold medal status! I do agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment that it is great to see less well-known areas and wineries achieving “top marks” which the impartial and objective system the IWSC employs should make possible.
All the Best, Joe.