Not long ago, knowing great Spanish wine meant knowing Rioja. But in the 1990s many of Spain’s oldest regions were rediscovered and reborn. The most remarkable of these were Toro and Priorat. Each of these remote regions had been virtually abandoned until innovative winemakers uncovered some of the oldest surviving vines in Spain (and in the world). In 1998 Numanthia was founded in this way…as a new winery that stepped into an ancient past.

Numanthia’s home, Toro, is a starkly severe wine region on the barren, luminous, 2,000 foot-high plateau of central Spain. The short, twisted, black tinta de Toro vines—up to 160 years old—are the hobbits of the wine world. For as gruff as the vines look, the wines that come from them have elegance as well as power. Like purebred racehorses, the wines are beautiful and yet surging with massive strength. Though a small estate, Numanthia is the top winery in the Toro region.

Numanthia was founded in 1998 by five partners, two of whom were well-known Rioja producers (Marcos and Miguel Eguren) and one of whom was a well-known importer of and ambassador for Spanish wine in the United States (Jorge Ordóñez). The partners eventually decided to move their careers forward in different directions and in 2008, Moët Hennessy bought Numanthia. It’s an estate that almost defies existence. Toro is a high plateau that can be scorchingly hot during the day and extremely cold at night. The 60 to 160 year old tinta de Toro vines survive because they have adapted to these extremes. The vines are on their own roots (not rootstock). They are head pruned bush vines (no trellising), which helps each vine form an umbrella of leaves that can shade the grapes from the sun. The winemaker, Manuel Louzada, has developed a precise way of winemaking that coaxes astounding richness and elegance from the powerful grapes. Few wines in the world are produced from vines so old or from grapes that grow under such extreme conditions. Numanthia is a “you-have-to-taste-it-at-least-once-in-your-life” experience.