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ABOUT THE WINE
The wine begins its journey on a desolate hillside 100 miles north of Madrid, near the town of Toro. In an extraordinary vineyard of wild, sculpted beauty, littered with stones from ice ages ago, the landscape offers the 120 year-old vines. Surrounded by undulating golden hills of wheat and barley, the area boasts little else but agriculture. In the midst of all the quiet, these lonely, ancient vines have made some global noise.
In 2004 Robert Parker awarded Termanthia, Numanthia’s flagship wine, a perfect score of 100, one of only nine Spanish wines to receive such an accolade.
Winemaker for Numanthia, Manuel Louzada’s states, “The wine is named for the Spanish legend about the town and people of Numantia. It is one reason I love working here.” The region’s original settlers were Celtic-Iberian people and in 134 BC the Romans came calling. Hoping for an easy takeover, the Romans met with fierce and surprising resistance. After 20 years of intermittent Roman and Numantine skirmishes, the Roman emperor sent in a general to surround and starve the city into submission.
During the siege of Numantia, the people sent messengers to try and persuade the Romans to end the siege and fight a real fight. The Romans refused. Rather than surrender to a life of slavery, the Numantine people burned themselves within their city.
“These wines with their massive concentration, bullish personality and honest fruit are so Numantine. Our wines celebrate that kind of resistance,” exclaims Louzada. He loves to tell stories, running off with threads of ideas and tales from his encyclopedic knowledge of the region and the wines. In his striped polo shirt and khakis, gesticulating wildly, he proclaims, “Making wine here is ideal because I have full license to express everything in the terroir, Tempranillo winemakers can’t do that and it’s a shame. The ties to tradition in Rioja limit honest expression. Here in Toro, we are all about the truth.”
Winemaking in Toro has had its share of challenges. The Tinta de Toro vineyard yields are some of the lowest in the world (largely because the vines must be widely spaced to afford each one access to the meager rainfall). Notes Louzada, “Before, the wines that emerged from here were so tannic and powerful you could almost eat them with a knife and fork. Toro wines are like bulls, beautiful and round on the outside, muscular and intense on the inside.”
Taming such concentration and power requires patience and effort, unbelievable effort. Louzada estimates he tastes over 1,000 grapes a day before harvest. “I also like to spend my days walking around the vineyards checking the vines.” As we walk the vineyards together, Louzada can’t help but talk and peel away dead layers of wood from the vines. “You must do this,” he insists, leaning down into a vine, “it’s so good for the vine, the deadwood harbors diseases. I can’t stop, at the end of a day my hands will be bleeding, I just get so excited, but I know I am helping the plant.” Never mind that the sun is flaming hot, Manuel keeps peeling. “But, I’m a strange guy.” He laughs, noting that at the end of a growing season each vine evolves into a unique bonsai from all the deadwood peeling.
Louzada, at the end of the day, is really a preservationist…deftly maintaining these relics of history for the next generation and for our pleasure today. How simple and easy for us to pop a cork and savor the courage and intensity of each fierce vine. Open a bottle tonight and as the spice-laced perfume wafts from your glass, tell the never-surrender tale of the Numantines and raise a toast to resistance.
This wine has been tortured in the Spanish sun only to be swaddled and coddled in the winery. Grapes are hand-picked, hand de-stemmed and crushed by foot. Selection is grape by grape, only the best make it into Termanthia. The result is something like the charming children's book character: Ferdinand the Bull---round and powerful on the outside but feminine and elegant on the inside. Violet, warm spices, cinnamon and cocoa weave together with mineral and wild herb notes to make this a flat-out stunning wine.