Numanthia y Tapas
Posted: July 24, 2009
I was lucky enough to attend a wine dinner early last week hosted by Numanthia Termes, a great winery in the Toro region of Spain. We ate tapas at a tapas restaurant. I had never had tapas before. What a dinner! But first, the wines. We tasted the 2006 vintage across the whole Numanthia lineup Termes, Numanthia and Termanthia. What is there to say? The wines are fabulous, each bigger than the last. All are quite modern, with heavy use of oak which the Tinto de Toro (the local version of tempranillo) boldly stands up to in support and body. All show huge raspberry, blackberry and plum fruits with layers of cocoa and vanilla, with rich tannins. These are wines that I couln't possibly recommend enough to anyone with any interest in Spanish wine. In general, Toro is a growing region deserving attention. To round out the night, we tasted from a magnum of the 1998 Numanthia, their first vintage, which is almost as big as the 2006. Time hasn't stripped any of the fruit or tannin, though it has exposed extra layers of toasted graham cracker or waffle cone, vanilla and brown sugar. If I have one bit of criticism of the Numanthia Termes wines, it is this: while the very expensive Termanthia ($190) is absolutely fantastic, the comparably reasonably priced Numanthia ($55) and comparably cheap Termes ($25) are almost as big and almost as good. Don't get me wrong: everybody should taste the Termanthia if they get the chance, it is wonderful. But when you make less expensive wines this good, you're shooting your flagship wine in the foot. As a side note, winemaker Manuel Louzada was loaded with lots of interesting stories. He told us about how the soil around some of the vineyards in Toro is so arid that the vines still grow on their original rootstock, having never been infested with phylloxera, the aphid-like infestation that ravaged the vineyards of Europe in the mid-19th century. He also told us about how he has worked as a winemaker on two different vintages in one year finishing one in the Southern Hemisphere and then going to the Northern Hemisphere to start on the second. These are delightful antecdotes for us wine nerds. As I mentiod above, I had never had tapas before. It went like this: lots of us sitting very closely together passed small plates of food around. For one course, I ate an olive. It was a very good olive. Later I had a slice of cheese on a slice of apple. All in all, eating tapas feels a lot like going to a movie theater, watching all the previews, and then leaving before the movie starts. Maybe I'm just conditioned to eat like an American. The dessert plate was excellent, but the coffee was lousy. The wines were fantastic. I had a great time.