BODEGA NUMANTHIA Termes 2012
The 2012 Bodega Numanthia ‘Termes’ is another gorgeous release from this historic estate. The wine slowly opens in the glass and starts to release aromas of black cherry, pipe tobacco, crushed mint and allspice. This yields dense flavors of black olive, crème de cassis, mocha, and hints of leather. There are lovely earthy elements to this exquisite value Toro. The weight and richness of this wine is hard to find at this price point. This is the best ‘Termes’ bottling that I have tasted in the past ten years. (Best 2016-2026) – July, 2016 (OB)
The eponymous 2012 Numanthia is sourced from vineyards ranging from 60 to 100 years of age across the Toro appellation (they have around 100 hectares of vineyards… spread across 100 separate plots!). The wine matured in brand new oak barrels for 22 months. The aromas are mostly oak related with some toasted sesame seeds, sweet vanilla and cinnamon, some licorice and chocolate, and a core of very ripe black fruit. The oak is obviously of very good quality, but at the moment it dominates the wine and with time what emerges is still toffee, smoke and coal. The palate reveals a very young wine that is dense, tremendous, with high dry extract, concentrated, powerful, and full of dusty tannins and oak-related flavors. This beast needs a good couple of years to be tamed down by the bottle. This is a bodybuilder of a Toro — oaky and highly extracted in its style.
The Spanish wine Numanthia is a wine that unbuttons you by inches. After each spicy, perfumed sip you find something new in the wine, drawing you in for yet another sip and, whoa, look at that, one more button pops loose. This is an intense and mysterious wine, refusing to be ignored; insisting on your attention, pulling you away from the stresses of the day. Naturally such a compelling wine has a story to tell.
The Legend of Numanthia
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 only tumbleweeds and wild herbs for company. 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. But I suspect the vines that made the grapes really don’t care much for scores. Walking among them inspires a hushed, worshipful reverie; a nursery of ancients deserves respect. Under the fire of the Spanish sun, these twisted, gnarled vines resist the dry, wrenching conditions. Each spring a new vein of green bursts forth, victorious for yet another year against the odds…and kicking out the kind of concentrated intellectual fruit that makes these wines so extraordinary.
The extreme conditions create frugal vines, which in turn yield precious black pearls at harvest, embodying the essence of struggle. They also embody something else, Numantine Resistance. Winemaker for Numanthia, Manuel Louzada’s ebullient energy revs even higher when he gets talking about the story of Numanthia, “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.
A Taste of Numantine Resistance: (all three are crafted from Tinta de Toro grapes)