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Wines of Bajoz, Spain

By Tom Cannavan, 02/04

Viño Bajoz is a leading light of Toro, the northern Spanish appellation next door to Rueda, and not far from Ribera del Duero and Rioja. Though relatively unknown outside of Spain, the wines of Toro have a long history. Christopher Columbus is said to have taken the wines of Toro on his expeditions to America. Toro also managed to escape the devastation of phylloxera, and many vineyards are over 100 years old. The vast majority of plantings are Tinta de Toro, a synonym for Tempranillo, the main grape of Rioja.

In answer to the question "why aren't the wines of Toro better known", Viño Bajoz web site declares: "Traditionally, the harvest began mid October. This meant that the wines often reached 16 or 17% alcohol and in turn were not very commercial. With little economic need to change and with little experience, the local farmers found it hard to understand why their most appreciated wines weren't selling. The harvest was then brought forward to mid September. More modern, lesser alcoholic wines were produced and this is when the first Toro boom began. The new found quality and style finally led the region to be award D.O status in 1987".
 

This tasting of the six red wines in the Bajoz portfolio includes their super-premium Gran Bajoz and their entry-level Tinto de Toro/Garnacha blend under the Caño label. The wines display a nice family trait of balance between fruit and oak, and a well-judged savoury character with ample tannins and acidity. I enjoyed these wines very much: they are modern and intelligently-made wines, where structure and suppleness is not swamped by ripeness or oak.

For wines available in the UK, retail prices are given in pounds sterling (£5=$8US). These wines are available from Bibendum and from independent retailers.

Caño (Spain) Tinta de Toro / Garnacha 2001 - £4.45
75% Tinta de Toro (a synonym for the Tempranillo grape) and 25% Garnacha (Grenache). Darkish, medium-density garnet colour. Lovely inviting nose, with lots of ripe redcurrants, cherry and plum, and a hint of spice. On the palate there's a tremendously sweet impression at first; blackcurrant jam and ripe Morello cherry, but also a bittersweet hint of liquorice and good acidity. There's a juicy, savoury quality here and a freshness about the finish thanks to the pert acids and well-balanced tannins. Really, a very nice drink that washed down some Chorizo and chilli pasta very nicely. Very good indeed. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Bajoz (Spain) Tinta de Toro Cosecha Joven 2002 - £4.75
Joven means "juvenile" or young, and this precocious, bright, but deep cherry coloured wine as all about fruit and supple elegance. With only 5% of the wine seeing some barrel ageing, it is very fragrant and fruity on the nose, with loads of cherry jam and crisp, focused raspberry. There's also a little rose-hip, floral note here. On the palate there's a lovely melange of bittersweet cherry fruit, earthy, brackeny qualities and aniseed-tinged, firm tannins. Quite warm on the finish, with hints of tobacco and toast, but that savoury, clean fruit powers through. A simple, but really delicious and well-balanced wine that is amongst my favourites in this range. Excellent. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Bajoz (Spain) Tinta de Toro Crianza 1999 - £7.25
This quite dark, crimson coloured but warm-edged wine spends a little time (six months) in American oak, which adds a spicy, toasty aspect to the nose. The fruit is clean and compact, suggesting cherry and raspberry with a dark, liquoricy edge. On the palate there's a sweetness of vanilla at first, but this is soon swamped by a wave of polished black fruit with a spine of acidity and almost grainy, powerful tannic edge. There's something quite cool and a touch rustic about the character of this wine, with plenty of spice and alcohol in the finish and a long, tantalising blackberry fruit quality. Very good indeed. See all stockists on wine-searcher.com.

Bajoz (Spain) Tinta de Toro Roble Barrel Aged 2001
From 30-40-year-old vines, this wine, again 100% Tinto de Toro, spends three months in all new American oak barrels. It has a medium deep plum colour, and a lovely, generous nose, that is deeply set with spices and toast, and an autumnal berry fruit quality. There is something intensely sweet and cherry-cola like too. On the palate this is very much fruit-driven, with plenty of raspberry and ripe cherry flavours, all wrapped in a tobacco and liquoricy spice. There is plenty of warming, toasty oak and a powerful seem of fruit. Good length, with a lip-smacking framework of tannins and acids. Very good indeed.

Bajoz (Spain) Tinta de Toro Reserva 2001
Dark, dense cherry colour. Nice, smooth plum and vanilla nose, with a glossy, tight damsony depth. Smooth on the palate too, with a creamy texture and a mouthfilling raft of fine, ripe tannins and dark, svelte fruit quality. Savoury, with good acids and some spicy, warming oak filling out the finish. Plenty of flesh and good length. Excellent.

Bajoz (Spain) Gran Bajoz 2000
Packaged in a heroically heavy and grand bottle, this is obviously a statement of intent from Bajoz: their vision of the first super-Toro wine. From a single vineyard of 60-year-old Tinta de Toro vines, this spends 12 months in French and American oak. It has a deep, warm ruby colour, and an equally deep, plush and vaguely mysterious nose, with all sorts of tobacco, woodsmoke and earthy notes set against a seam of bittersweet blueberry and cherry-skin fruit. On the palate this big, powerful, broad-shouldered wine is packed with ripe, but drying tannins, which flood across the mouth. The fruit is deeply-hued, suggesting roasted berries and damson plums, all wrapped in a polish of smoky oak. There's a great sense of brooding structure and depth here, and a fine, spicy density of fruit. Bajoz suggest 10 - 12 years of ageing potential, which would be great to test out by laying half a case away. It certainly seems to have the structure to go the distance, and the fruit to last the course. Excellent.