Bodegas Fariña, DO Toro

BODEGAS FARIÑA, DO TORO

CHATEAU MOUTON ROTHSCHILD IT’S NOT

– I’M DELIGHTED TO SAY!

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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 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!

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 You’ll be able to read more about Bodegas Fariña and the wines I haven’t had the space to mention at www.bodegasfarina.com . 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 – www.colinharknessonwine.com click Blog.

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

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