Our best grapes II: Albarín

Albarín, also known as Verdín Blanco and Raposo, is a rare light-skinned grape variety  native of the northern of Spain in Asturias (Cangas of Narcea),  and León, specifically, in the Apellation of Origin Tierra de León. Although thought by many to be the same variety as Albariño (Alvarinho), the two similarly named varieties are genetically distinct.

The aroma profile of Albarin wines falls somewhere between that of its cousin Albariño and that of Gewurztraminer. Often include references to ripe limes, lychee, mint, fig and orange. This is inevitably affected by winemaking style, however. It should be noted that some of the finest Albarin wines are subjected to malolactic fermentation, extended lees contact and barrel aging, to create broader, richer, fuller-bodied styles.

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Albarin is used to produce both varietal wines and blended wines, in which its most common partner is Verdejo. Also is characterized by its early maturity and sweet flavor. Easily reaches 14 degrees, keeping fresh acidity.

Traditionally it has been used for the production of young wines but currently has excellent results for its aging in oak barrels.

Tasting notes

A straw yellow colour wine with green reflections. On the nose is intense and there are predominate fruity notes, often include references to ripe limes, lychee, mint, orange and touches of vegetables and floral aromas, typical of the Albarín grape and inevitably affected by winemaking style. In the mouth it is fresh, balanced acidity, fruity, with considerable body and persistent palate.

Grape characteristics

Bunch: average length 11 cm.

Berries: elliptical shape, intense green and bright-yellow color. The pulp is juicy, slightly colored and flavored Muscat. Most berries take one or two seeds and the average weight of these is 0,028 gr.

Leaf: medium density of hairs lying, weak or very weak pigmentation forming a rim around the edge of the limb. The mature leaf has pentagonal shape, with the V-shaped on base.

Winemaking V: Aging

Breeding is a long and delicate process intended to give a different character to a wine that is already developed. The starting point is a perfect wine for consumption act, but with the possibility of seeing their qualities improved by aging.

The aging process takes place in two stages: oxidative yreductora. The first takes place in the wooden cask, where small amounts of oxygen penetrating the container naturally by modifying the chemical structure of many of the components of the wine. The second is performed inside the bottle. It does not penetrate virtually oxygen, except for small amounts of gases that are filtered through the cells of the cork, so wine elements react with each other in their absence.

First phase of aging: the importance of wood. During the first phase of aging, wood and wine form a stable and practically indivisible society. The wood gives the wine its tannins and aromatic own values, which are slowly merging with the tannins of the wine. However, it is necessary to find a balance between both partners: if the wine remained long in the barrel, the harsh tannins of the wood would eventually defeat the original aromas of the wine.

According to experts, the most suitable wood is American or French oak, although other woods like chestnut, rauli or pitch pine are also used. The most widely used is the bordalesa barrel with a capacity of 225 liters.

All barrels filled and closed are placed in a row over others in a space excavated or semiexcavado preferably on the ground and remain there for about six months. The temperature of this place should be low and range about 5 ° between summer and winter. The relative humidity should be around 75%. These weather conditions favor a process of slow and homogeneous microoxidación, while reducing shrinkage, ie, loss of liquid by evaporation.

After the first six months, the wine is decanted into another barrel in order to separate the clean wine residues located at the bottom, and seek a degree of aeration and respite for wine.

This phase lasts for several months, until the wine acquires the desired point. At the end of this stage, both the aromas and flavors of wine are mixed. To achieve a unification of qualities, the wine cask is blended with other wines of the same vintage. Then it proceeds to a gentle clarification of wine, filter and bottled.


Aging the wine in the cellar using oak barrels

Second phase of aging: aging in bottle. With the transfer of wine bottles begins the second phase of the aging process: the reducing (without oxygen).

A full and well covered time, the bottles are placed in racks located in caves or drafts. It is perfectly insulated underground or ships which are characterized by the absence of air and sudden temperature changes and by a relative humidity above 70%. There they will remain flat forming rhymes so that the wine is in permanent contact with the cork, moistening and producing a seal.

The wine that has evolved successfully during oxidative phase, the bottle is refined and rounded, enriching their scent hand of existing substances in the reducing atmosphere (without oxygen) of the bottle. Thus acquires a greater complexity and elegance and the proof is that the bottle aging of great wines can be extended for many years.

When deciding who finished the bottle stage, it is considered the finished wine. Then it is removed from the drafts, cleaned of accumulated dust bottle, is placed the corresponding labels and the capsule and is ready for market.

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Aging bottled wine in the cellar

Classification of wines. Specifically, the still wines are descriptive names depending on the duration of aging that have undergone wood or bottle, as set by each appellation of origin, and taking into account that the Spanish Law has harmonized these to ensure a same minimum standards in any appellation.

So the following descriptive names are defined:

Young Wine: Also known as Wine of the Year, is one that is prepared for immediate sale on the market. It has not happened so at any time by the aging process in barrels or, at most, less than the legally established time for Crianza wines.

Crianza: Red wine must have passed an aging process of two years, with a minimum of six months in wood (some regions like Rioja insist twelve best six) and should be put on sale in its third year. As the pink and white wines must remain 18 months in the cellar, of which six months must be at least in wooden barrels. Its marketing is done in its second year.

Reserva: The Red duty three years in the cellar, of which at least one must do it in barrels. It is marketed in its fourth year. The white and rose wines should be 18 months in the cellar, six months in wood, and offered for sale in its third year.

Gran Reserva: Only reach this stage of aging which are considered the best vintages. The red must have spent at least five years in the cellar of the year and a half which is in wooden barrels and the rest in bottle. They must be traded in its sixth year. Pink and white wines remain in the cellar for four years and at least six months in barrels. It is also marketed in its sixth year

Winemaking IV: Rose wine

Reception and separation of musts. The shares rose wine virtually the same processing methods that white wine. For starters, it is also subjected to the separation process of musts. The difference is that only buds and first musts, flowing through solids dragging on its way of coloring matter of the skin and thus get a slightly colored appearance must be utilizanmostos.

Crushing and pressing. In a next step the stalks and scrapes (stripping) are removed. Then the juice is squeezed and transferred to a tank where it is kept in contact with the skins for a period ranging between 12 and 16 hours, with special care to avoid fermentation begins. Another option is to press the dough after a soft start crushing. When the wort has taken color, we proceed alsangrado or separation of the must and the solid paste.

Before the racking fermentation is performed following the same procedures as in the preparation of white wine.

Fermentation. Subsequently the fermentation process, which in this case is known as virgin defermentación name by the absence of skins starts. Must be performed at a controlled for temperature fresh and fruity wines.

The other processes are identical to those used for white wine.

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Zamora: the least traveled area

Zamora is the least traveled areas of Spain, and a few of the grape varieties are indigenous only to that area, Prieto Pecudo is one of the varietals and Albarin (not to be confused with Albarino).  This rare little area has been a best kept secret, along with the Vega de Tera Winery and Halcon wines.

Last year Xavier Iturria, the winemaker for Vega de Tera, shipped wines to the Peñin Guide for review. José Peñin is one of the most influential men in the world of wine in Spain (http://jpenin.guiapenin.com/acerca-de-jose-penin/). Jose Penin gave several of its five-star wines to Vega de Tera wines (you can see in this link - http://www.guiapenin.com/la-guia-penin.html - writing Vega de Tera in the space to search), the featured stars represent the price-quality ratio of the tested wines.

Xavier Iturria is a renowned French, natural winemaker from Bordeaux, who has worked for Spanish and French premier wineries.

Halcon wines have great potential. Jose Peñin and Miguel Regil, Manager of the Vega de Tera Winery, along with Xavier have been working to improve Halcon wines and put them on the top of the Spanish wine scene. Mr Peñin last week had tasted the new vintages of Halcon and the verdict has been fantastic, declaring the White Halcon 2014 as one of the best Verdejos produced this year in Spain (the score would be in the 95-96 points), plus he declares the Halcon red young has great potential and its score is above 94 points. The Halcon Oaked 2014 also has not left him indifferent and supposed to be well above 90 points.

These comments were made in a small committee tasting wines with Penin's partners and collaborators. Miguel tells us the good news, that they will have just tasted all the wines in the middle of this month and July 20th Mr Peñin will visit the Vega de Tera winery invited by the Owner, Manolo Cuñarro (Miguel´s father in law). Once Penin visits the winery, they should have the scores completed and confirmed.

The wines are produced simply, organic in nature, vegan, with no GMO’s.

Xavier Iturria, is truly one of the up and coming Winemakers in Spain one to watch!

How well do you know your Spanish Wines?

The Gordonzello winery is Northeast of Benevente about 20 minutes and is a rural area of about 20,000 people. Albarin, not Albarino is a grape variety only grown in this province.The closest my reasearch has come to the Albarin grape variety is the Albillo Real grape variety. This is a grape variety found in the Ribera del Duero area of Spain. A high glycerin index lends itself to a slight fruit forward nose, but the kicker is the nose does not match the flavor of the wine at all.  Rich, straw, perfumed, lush and just plain different, it leaves you perplexed in a good way and keeps you coming back for more.  A hearty food wine. My favorite is the Peregrino Albarin from the Gordonzello Winery.

Prieto Pecudo is another grape variety found in this region, similar to a Tempranillo, however the character of the Pietro Pecudo is "grapier" than the "earthy" Tempranillo grape. Valdevimbre, is the municipality that grows this grape variety, in Castilla Y Leon. Though it is a grape used for blending and is a common grape in the area, it is newer to the US. Deep color, rich tanins, as obscure as the grape's name.

Monte La Reina, "Castle of the Queen", is a winery nestled in north central Spain. It is in the province of Zamora, in the Castilla Y Leon. It is a 2 1/2 hour drive north west of Madrid, 35 milles south east of Benavente. Monte La Reina is known for one of the best Crianza's and is famous for very unique 100% Verdejo and Tempranillo wines. These grapes may not be as rare as the others, however they are some of the best wines coming out of this special, unique province.

The Vega de Tera winery is 10 miles west of Benevente, northwestern Spain. Vega de Tera literally translates to "river bottom land" , implying the land surrounding the winery is very fertile. Tera is the name of the river, and they produce a wine called "Halcon", or Falcon.  One of the highlights is their 100% Pietro Pecudo Rose, dry style, lush strawberry nuances, the perfect picnic wine or for entertaining. Rose season is coming and Spring is already as alive as the flowers are in Colorado.

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Winemaking III: White wine

Upon receipt of the grapes, it forms a paste which preserves the skins and scrapes, and is transferred to the cages to be subjected to a separation process of musts. There, in a first phase, the juice flows slowly by gravity (desvinado) or light pressure (crushed) later. It must be noted that the current trend in the production of white wines is to suppress the desvinado.

The first must from the desvinado, or crushed when the desvinado is removed, are characterized by higher quality and are called run juice, flower or tear wort wort. Its main features are a great lightness and finesse, aromatic, soft, floral and fruity.

Draining and pressing. The remaining paste remains much stronger for the loss of fluid and is subjected to pressures of increasing intensity. As a result of these pressures arise up to three different types of must: the first must (light pressure-drained), musts second (medium pressure) and third or press (strong pressure) musts. Each of the qualities obtained subsequently fermented separately to obtain different types of wine.

The remnants that remain in the press are the marc, as have not fermented, containing sugar and are called sweet or fresh grape. They may be subjected to different processes which result pomace and other alcohol derivatives.

The must thus obtained are provided with numerous suspended solids are mostly from the grape. By settling it proceeds to separation. This process involves static must stand for a day, but with special care lest it begin to ferment. The solids are falling to the bottom by its own weight and then, following a meticulous control, clean musts are decanted and transferred to stainless steel tanks for fermentation.

Fermentation. The clean must of solid matter is fermented at a temperature ranging between 18 and 22º. This process makes both the splitting of sugars into alcohol and the release of carbon takes place slowly and leisurely way. The aim is to preserve the aromas of the wine and thus obtain the highest final quality.

The alcoholic fermentation takes place for 10 to 15 days. The fermentation ends when the wine contains between 1 and 2 grams of sugar per liter, at which point, with little presence of sugars is completely dry. However, more and more scarce house completely dry white wines as is usually maintaining a certain proportion of residual sugar for greater aromatic intensity.

The wines of the wettest areas, equipped with a high proportion of malic acid, absent wines from warmer places are subjected to a second fermentation called malolactic or maloalcoholic. By the action of bacteria (malolactic) or yeast (maloalcoholic), malic acid is converted to lactic acid or alcohol. This process can be performed either simultaneously with the fermentation and subsequently.

Racking and clarification. After fermentation, between the second half of November and early January, the wine is subjected to two or three racking to remove solid residues derived from the fermentation. However, after racking still often remain suspended solids that could degenerate, affecting the appearance of wine and giving odors and flavors.

To remove these particles wine undergoes a clarification process that lasts about ten days. It involves inserting substances that carry solids remains and settle to the bottom of the tank. Then proceeds to the filtration of wine, the wine to pass through other substances retaining still contains particles. The methods used in this process are varied: from earth filters and filter plates to modern amicróbicos based sterilants.

Finally, the wines are selected and separated by qualities that, through appropriate mixtures, it is intended each to a corresponding type depending on desired.

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Winemaking II: Red wine

Unlike white wine, red wine in developing the non-integer, but the grapes that has been deleted them scrape through a process called stripping clusters they are used. The reason is simple: as the color extraction is done by maceration, the presence of plant cluster structure would give the wine smells and unpleasant herbaceous flavors, while affect its acid content and decrease their alcohol content.

Crushing and tumultuous fermentation. A crushing the dough obtained from sulfur dioxide is added, ingredient responsible for selecting the microbial fauna that will intervene later in fermentation. It will also help the extraction of color and better dissolution. Subsequently, the pulp is transferred to a tank where the fermentation begins, a process that should never exceed 30 degrees temperature. During the same, by the action of yeast, sugars are split into alcohol and carbon dioxide is clear, while the skins coloring matter dissolved in the liquid.


Vega de Tera Winery during the cleaning process and prepared for the reception of grapes

Carbon dioxide pushes the skins detached upward, where they form a barrier called hat. In a process called traced, this layer is soaked with fermenting must by pumps to activate the color extraction. The skin should also be removed periodically in operation known as punching down.

Slow fermentation. Once complete maceration racking, that is, the transfer of liquid to another vessel where the fermentation is performed ends. While the first part lasts for 6-10 days and is known as tumultuous fermentation, the second stage lasts nearly double, from 10 to 20 days depending on the temperature and is called slow fermentation. In this second phase it continues to release carbon dioxide and hat must-wine is removed to continue flowing liquid, known as roll up operation that is usually done manually. Then, during the bleeding process it is extracted by gravity this must-wine called wort bleeding, with lots of color liquid and harshness that, with time and good care, can produce quality wines.

Pressing. The remaining skins are taken to the press where, thanks to strong pressures, wine press, characterized by a low alcohol, rich in color and tannins and very astringent is obtained. Marc solids used in the distilleries. The different qualities of wine obtained during these processes complete their fermentation separately.

Racking and aging. During the transfer, the wine tank clean is lagging because in its background are accumulated solids. This rinsing process is favored by cold and low outside temperatures characteristic of winter. The wine takes on a purple and vermilion tone loses its birth. Racking is repeated periodically, thus avoiding possible contamination produced by the breakdown in the wine of these solids.

After completing the above processes, the wines are selected by quality and decide what their destination: immediate access to the market (Young Wine) or a higher or lower and aging process (Vino de Crianza, Reserve Wine, Great Wine Reserve).

Pairing I: Cheese and wine

There is no reference to the harmonious relationship between cheese and wine tax rule. At the end of the day it's all about taste. The main thing is that you enjoy with pleasure.

As a tip for those who want to delve into the complex and fascinating world of marriage, the proposal is experiencing at the moment with the wine and the cheese will enjoy it and open yourself to all possibilities.

When it comes to taste a cheese board it is important to find the balance of a wine that harmonizes in a general way with the most cheeses and that will also function with personal tastes.

In the world there are endless types of cheese. Their different styles and flavors are the result of using different species of bacteria and mold levels cream in milk, variations in healing time and other differences in the process.

By wine, the amount of existing classes is also important since, in addition to grape or strain types, soil in which they are grown, amount of sugar and color, are those resulting from the mixture of each .

As a result of the two elements (cheese and wine) it is possible to obtain a complex list of combinations that must be well thought out, especially since dairy, even the mildest, tend to prevail over their companions.

For more details on these mixtures are some combinations that might be to his liking.

Brie cheese is a white moldy cheese edible white rind. Pair it with Syrah, Cabernet, Malbec, generic wines of good body.

Goat cheese are ideal to taste them next to rose wines as Prieto Picudo.

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Camembert cheese is a soft cheese with white bark fungus fuzz penicilum candidium is ideal if you serve young reds Tempranillo, Malbec, Pinot or Merlot.

The Cheddar cheese goes with young reds Tempranillo, Prieto Picudo or Merlot.

Fontina cheese is brown and very mature skin. Experts advise eating with Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon; both good body.

Fresh cheeses, talk mozarella, Ricotta, Cotagge or Burgos. They are sour, moist aroma and creamy texture. Wonderful if you eat sipping Rioja Torrontés, fruity white or pink as Albarín young and fruity pink wines like Tempranillo or Prieto Picudo.

The Gouda cheese always be accompanied with a Sauvignon Blanc or Viognier hard, young Merlot or Malbec.

Cabrales cheese kind of blue cheese is characterized by its spiciness, must be accompanied with red wines of upbringing and care, Tempranillo and Cabernet are very desirable.

Zamorano cheese is a sheep cheese that is characterized by well developed aromas and intense, persistent flavors on the palate, it is advisable to book the pairing with red Tempranillo.

As a curiosity, it notes that there is a very famous saying in Spain: "do not give you with cheese." This means something like do not be fooled. And the origin of the expression has to do precisely with the mixture of the flavor of these foods. It turns out that the cheese is able to fool the taste buds making them insensitive to certain defects of low quality wines. They knew this ancient wine merchants ... and profited from it. When a trader had a particularly bad batch of wine, gave it a try when possible buyer accompanied with a bit of cheese, it made wine yet still very bad result and exquisite to the buyer.

Winemaking I: Wine

Methods of making and aging wines have experienced worldwide a spectacular evolution since the sixties, introducing new concepts such as the effective control of the harvest, the monitoring of primary aromas of the fruit or the order and hygiene in cellar. The introduction and assimilation of these new methods in Spain has been such that many of the most modern wineries in Europe are currently in Spain.

But the various methods of processing of each type of wine must take into account, before application, important aspects that will influence the final result:

Vintage. The process of harvesting is usually done in late August-early September and mid-October, when the fruit has acquired the desired degree of maturation. Its importance is vital because during the harvest the first selection of the fruit is done: the success of all subsequent wine depend largely on the correctness with which they carry out this process.

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Similarly, the transfer of the vineyard to the winery must be done with great care in order that the grapes do not suffer excessive pressures. If the grapes deteriorates or breaks, a loss of juice would occur, which would result in undesirable premature fermentation.

The color of the wine. The vast majority of the grapes used in winemaking has the same color in its pulp, regardless of the type of grape that is: colorless to slightly yellowish. The coloring pigments that characterize, for example, red grapes are practically always in the skin (skin). Therefore, the development of red wines is imperative that this coloring matter in the skins is transferred to the whole mass of must. This simple condition marks the main difference in the production of red and white wines.

Removing the wort. Before beginning the process of drawing depending on the wine to be obtained, the grape is subjected to a process that is common to all types: juice extraction. Clusters from vintage are discharged into a container in the form of truncated pyramid called receiving hopper from where it is transported to the crusher. There, the fruit undergoes a rupture pressure, a process known as crushed and that must be done accurately so they will not tear or break the hard vegetable cluster elements as seeds, stalks or stalks (vegetable cluster structure) and skins. These ingredients contaminate the juice with undesirable odors and flavors, it will increase its acid content. In the case of wine intended for the production of red wine to eliminate scratches procedure is performed.

The crushing a viscous paste of mashed grape pulps, broken skins, seeds and stalks emerges. No more tears occur without contact with air so that it does not perform a premature and unwanted fermentation, this paste is transferred to a series of dams, beginning the process of developing the type of wine to be obtained.

Bodegas Vega de Tera: the birth of a great wine

The arrival of Miguel Regil the world of wine, you can say it was by chance, motivated by a passion for wine he shared with his father in law, Manuel Cuñarro.

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 Miguel Regil, manager Vega de Tera wineries.

I starting from the beginning, Manuel's passion for wine, took him 7 years ago to embark on a project with three other partners to make a winery with the idea of ​​making quality wines. During this time, Manuel was left a little margin management, which is in the hands of the other 3 members, scholars are assumed in this matter. During those years, marked by a severe economic crisis that has affected and continues to affect Spain, the winery did not get the expected results, so in 2012, it was practically closed.

In 2013, Miguel Regil, coming from the railway industry (commercial director of a Spanish engineering), but had always had a keen interest in wine he suggested to Manuel, both to stay with the winery. The aim was clear: to remove the hold on producing quality wines at a reasonable price, covering the entire product range.

Miguel by training (Senior Engineer) had no idea how to make wine, but had things very clear about what to do and how wines, so the first thing he did was have Xavier Iturria, wine expert, and he conveyed his ideas.

Xavier Iturria is a renowned French, natural winemaker from Bordeaux, who has worked for Spanish and French premier wineries. He came to Spain seeking to make different wines, and has worked for both the best wineries Rivera de Duero (Bodegas Mauro) and Toro, where he worked with the Lurton brothers and Michel Rolland (one of the most famous winemakers in France). Bodegas Vega de Tera offered the technical direction of the hold for free to the elaboration of wines and Castilla y Leon offered the best variety of grapes to make different wines based on quality.


Xavier Iturria, winemaker Vega de Tera wineries.

The three quickly defined the type of wine they wanted to do, and that had to be based on the quality and care of the raw material and processing, following ecological and traditional practices.

The results are as expected, and that can be checked by testing the wines.

What we can say is that each wine has its nuances, its specificity, which is what we are looking for, there's our motto of:

"Making a difference. An invitation for great wines of unique grapes, selected in which the force of the earth and the art of man meet. This is our motto, and our desire, the confidence that can currently make a great wine anywhere in the geography of Castilla y León, fulfilling the greatest virtue of wine: its variety, its capacity, with the same be one in each place, in each crop in each winery "

D.O. TORO: One of the most important apellation of origin in Spain

Although it has achieved worldwide fame in recent decades, thanks to its high quality wines and unique personality, wine of Toro has a great tradition, since its origins predate the settlement of the Romans in the city in the first century BC. 

Since Roman times and throughout the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the wines of Toro were considered an asset of great esteem, having being granted royal privileges which allowed its commercialization in cities where the sale of other wines was forbidden, so, during the kingdom of Alfonso IX, Toro wine was the only foreign wine was allowed to enter the city of Sevilla. It was also the Toro wine that accompanied Christopher Columbus on his discovery of the Americas; so much so that the "La Pinta", one of his three ships, was so named by the toresano Fray Diego de Deza, confessor to Queen Isabel, referring to a measure of capacity that was used in Toro and still today used as a colloquial expression for a drink of wine. 

During the nineteenth century is exported in large quantities to Europe, mainly France to address the lack of wine caused by the phylloxera. The invasion of this pest had only affected a small proportion of vineyards in the Toro area. 

Throughout history the value of wine from Toro had settled mainly in graduation and corpulence, characteristics that made him a lasting wine, and allowing transport overseas. This explains why up over half of the twentieth century demand based on these qualities, was not conducive to any change in the production of this powerful wine. 

Noting this reality, and in the early 70s, and convinced the producers that the high ranking of that Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo) was not intrinsic to the variety but its late harvest, it began to push the first big change in the area: Vintage advancement in nearly a month. It was harvest the grapes at optimum ripeness while graduation was reduced from the 16º-17º until the 13º-14º. 

In 1987 the appelation of origin, covers sixteen municipalities in the area, in the provinces of Zamora and Valladolid is approved. 

Worldwide recognition of the new Toro wines has made this DO in the spotlight, not only for buyers but also a large number of investors in the wine sector. This is demonstrated by the fact that there are now 51 wineries covered by the DO Toro.

Some of the world's most prestigious wine observers have not hesitated to place Toro among the ten most interesting wine regions of the world in the coming years.

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