THE Toro and Arribes wine trails seem to be Spain’s best-kept secret by far.
Nestled in the Castille y Leon region about two hours from Madrid and on the Portuguese border, these small and unspoiled towns have a lot to offer those who prefer to get off the beaten track.
Rich in history and culture, the town of Toro was our first stop with a tour of the Pagos Del Ray wine museum, which offers an interactive in-depth tour of Toro’s wine history.
A self-guided tour with wine and traditional food tasting will set you back just a connoisseur while a guided tour with tasting will cost €8 and well worth it .
There is an opportunity to buy some of your favorite wines from the tasting at a lower cost because you get them directly from the source instead of the supermarket.
The food in Spain is delicious with the Bodega Latarce standing out as my favorite in Toro.
Although very little English was spoken, recommendations from staff fell in value when a suckling pig and rack of lamb appeared on the table along with potatoes.
The meat is tender and tender but do not order if you are particularly sensitive to how the animal is cooked.
There are dumplings filled with duck balls that melt in your mouth as soon as you eat them.
The town of Toro itself is gorgeous and decorated with medieval flags in time for their annual festival.
Cobblestones and original buildings from 13order century feels as if you are stepping back in time.
History and religion buffs will enjoy the Collegiate of Santa María la Mayor, built in stages at the end of 12order century.
Its design transitions between Romanesque and gothic styles but is worth mentioning as the ‘Door of Majesty’, from 13order centuries of preserving its original polychromatic, one of the oldest in Europe.
They say the devil is in the details and this ring is true to this fine carving where it is believed to be the first ever depiction of purgatory.
Digital paintings simply don’t do it fairly because the painting tells a story about heaven and especially grisly hell.
Cheese lovers elsewhere will find their own paradise in the Chillion Museum de queso. A family run business for generations and remains a factory to this day.
Another interactive tour that I feel even kids will enjoy as it explains how cheese making methods have changed over the years.
One of the biggest discoveries is that the hotel – at Hotel Castillo Monte La Reina – is like a castle like a hotel.
The view over the vineyard from the second floor bedroom is incredible. The rooms are comfortable and fit for royalty.
The food is exceptional with the salted steak, a particular favourite.
It’s also accessible with rooms starting at €150 a night, or you can rent the eight-bedroom castle for just €750.
It could be ideal for a hen party with wine lovers or even a picturesque overseas wedding in a lesser known location.
From Toro we head to the small village of Fermoselle, another piece of well-preserved history, with breathtaking views overlooking the Duoro river, with Portugal almost visible in the distance.
However, be careful here as Portugal and Spain are in different time zones and your watch could get confused.
While Fermoselle boasts numerous cellars and wineries around town, a must see in my book is a visit to local Lilianna and Jose’s El Hato y el Garabato vineyard.
The couple, who have been in the wine business for a long time after working in California and Australia, are very friendly and have excellent English.
Now they offer tours, not only to their vineyard but also to their bodega, where their wines are made, and it will cost you just 15€.
Meeting the family that included their two daughters, and the pet dogs after crushing the grapes with my own hands was not an experience I hastened to forget.
And although Fermoselle may be small, there’s no shortage of things to do in the picturesque town that was declared a historic-arts complex in 1974.
Travel back in time with a guided tour of the village as well as an underground tour through traditional wineries.
Local producers like Teresa at Mermeladería Oh Sauco will offer tastings of their homemade jams, chutneys and jams while Nina at Numa ceramica will host a pottery workshop using ingredients and inspiration from nature such as lavender, leaves and pinecones.
Nature lovers can hike through the Arribes del Duero Natural Park, where you can enjoy breathtaking scenery for miles around.
It’s not too difficult to make and would be an ideal setting for a family picnic.
My absolute favorite hotel of the trip was the Hacienda Zorita Nature Reserve, which consists of two villas with five bedrooms each and a communal tower overlooking the vineyard.
This place reminded me of a Love Island villa and I could immediately see the appeal of a large group renting all the furniture to enjoy wine on a big weekend.
However, a couple can rent a room for €200 a night in high season and share a glass of wine at the top of the tower.
Food at the restaurant serving dry meats and cheeses quickly became a trip staple.
An incredibly tender stacked meat dish paired with wine from the villa’s vineyard.
The grounds are really beautiful and for a quick stay I cannot recommend it enough as everything you could possibly need or want is on site.
Another highlight is the boat ride along the Douro River, which offers stunning views, and while our tour was in Spanish and Portuguese, we were assured there was a plan as well. English introduction.
There are many eco-friendly projects along the river, including an artificial island floating in the middle of the river. This helps wildlife have a consistent habitat as water levels change year-round.
There is another heartwarming project that sees children with special needs receive animal therapy with ducks and otters.
In terms of food and atmosphere along the Arribes trail, La Enoteca del Marqués is a winner.
The family-run bar and restaurant features a beautiful outdoor dining area decorated with lights and plants.
Bartender Christian has excellent English and is available to explain the history of the place in its original cellar.
And they make their own drinks, including a very Instagrammable ‘magic gin’ that goes from blue to pink.
Having the actual Doña Urraca hotel next door and being walkable to the town square is an ideal location and rustic rooms are reasonably priced at €160 a night.
FUN FOR EVERYONE
The hotel itself has a terrace that gives a romantic feel, especially when watching the sunset in hand with a glass of wine in hand.
Overall on both of these trails I believe there really is something for everyone, young people can enjoy the atmosphere and wine of Toro.
Couples can book a romantic getaway and soak in the beautiful surroundings while families don’t need to worry about keeping kids busy with boat rentals, pottery workshops, picnics in Parks and interactive museums provide endless fun.
Buying a car to get around or renting a bus is a smart investment so the whole group can enjoy the local wines.
The only downside I can find is that a few Spanish words would be helpful if available, but Google can provide basic phrases and locals appreciate the effort.
And the authenticity of this place is what makes it so special and worth experiencing.
Overall, the Castille y Leon region is a must-see for wine connoisseurs and foodies alike, now an undisguised gem in the northwest of Spain.
https://www.thesun.ie/travel/8515046/toro-arribes-wine-trails-spain-best-kept-secret/ Explore the Toro and Arribes . wine trails