Tasting Lopez de Heredia, Ultra-traditional Rioja


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Yesterday I presented some of the top wines of the Haro Bodega Lopez de Heredia to members and guests of the Harrogate Medical Wine Society.

Chamonix Reserve White 2013 was served with Spanish goat’s cheese before the tasting. Winemaker Gottfried Mocke makes this classically styled Cape blend from around 60% sauvignon blanc with the balance semillon grown at altitude in Franschhoek. The result is a rich, deeply flavoured wine ideally suited to a discreet touch of barrel, which it gets over a year’s maturation in French oak, most of it used, so the flavour doesn’t intrude. It is an elegant, beautifully balanced wine. (16.5)

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The Bodega

“The López de Heredia family owns this ultra-traditional bodega which farms 170 hectares of vineyards, and very little has changed since it was founded in 1877. The vineyards are planted with the region’s classic grapes, including tempranillo, garnacha, graciano and mazuelo for the reds, viura and malvasia for the white wines. Everything here is done by hand, from vineyard to bottle, but it is the barrel ageing that defines the captivating style of these extraordinary Riojas. Reds, whites and even the intriguing rosado spend years maturing calmly in the cobwebby cellars. This endows the wines with a certain ethereal quality and subtleness. These are the antithesis of modern, fruit-driven wines resting their quality on secondary and tertiary flavours, balanced by a silky sweetness and understated intensity.”

The Wines

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1. VIÑA GRAVONIA BLANCO 2006: A 100% viura, matured in barrel for four years, and as much again in bottle. Remarkably fresh and vibrant, with the bodega’s trademark creamy texture and long, tangy finish. (14)

2. VIÑA TONDONIA RESERVA BLANCO 1999: A blend of 90% viura and 10% malvasia with six years in barrel. It is dry and nutty with integrated mature oak flavours.(14) One bottle was not in good condition.

3. VIÑA TONDONIA GRAN RESERVA BLANCO 1994: Beautifully evolved at over 20 years old with notes of warm stone fruit, a subtle smokiness and discreet hints of sweet vanilla after ten years in barrel. A wine of striking vigour, deep complexity and a seemingly endless, multi-layered finish. (16)

4. VIÑA CUBILLO CRIANZA 2007: A blend of 65% tempranillo and 25% garnacha, with mazuelo and graciano making up the balance, all produced at the Cubillo vineyard in the Rioja Alta. After three years in barrel, it has mellowed further in bottle, with notes of cedar and cherry stone. (15)

5. VIÑA TONDONIA RESERVA 2003: The blend of 75% tempranillo with 15% garnacha and 10% graciano and mazuelo combined spends six years in barrel. It is ubtle and mellow, mahogany in appearance with smoky aromas and evolved spicy, dried-cranberry notes on the palate, lifted by life-enhancing acidity. (16)

6. VIÑA TONDONIA RESERVA 2001 Bottles were in poor condition.

7. VIÑA TONDONIA GRAN RESERVA 1994: Mature gran reserva from an excellent vintage, and for Maria-José López de Heredia one of the best Tondonias in the history of the bodega. After almost a decade in barrel, and as much again in bottle, this is delicate, silky and intense with gorgeous fruit sweetness you’d expect in a much younger wine. On the finish, an appealing touch of dry, but not grippy, tannin enhances the experience. (17)

The tasting was followed by a light supper (Lamb Cutlets with Lemon and Mint Pesto, Vanilla Ice Cream with Barbadillo Pedro Ximanez La Cilla, Coffe & Mints). Baron de Ley Rioja Reserva from the excellent 2010 vintage was poured with supper (16)

Comments

“Dear Bernard, What a splendid tasting yesterday evening was. Both Charles and I agree that your lecture was the best we’d ever attended on Spanish Rioja. Your talk, coupled with the excellent dinner by Adam and his staff, together in the company of fellow members of the Society, was the culmination of a splendid evening. Our favourite wines of the evening were the Lopez De Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco Rioja 1994, in spite of it’s great age was something special as was the red Lopez De Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rioja also 1994. What a good year that was. The Baron de Ley Reserva 2010 was a perfect accompaniment to the meal. Many thanks.” – Ann & Charles Joslin, Harrogate

“Once again an excellent evening on Thursday we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We also found it very interesting and educational, Rioja was one if my first loves but in recent years I have drunk it less in favour of others, it was good to be reminded of what I have been missing. In particular we found the food quality, quantity, and wine matching much better than at the golf club. It makes the evening so much more enjoyable when the food at the end enhances an already excellent evening.” – Tony Lee, Harrogate
“Most interesting and informative.” – Dr. Tony Coral, London

“We also received your previous e-mail on which you were mentioning this tasting. My apologize for not having replied. About the poor bottles could you give me more details? Where did you buy them? What happened with them? Were they corked? I understand that when you mention in poor condition it might be the storage but I would like to know a bit more since these wines should be in perfect conditions. Look forward to hearing from you and, again, my most sincere thanks for your appreciation and sharing your work with us.” – María José López de Heredia, Haro

“Many thanks for a wonderful and very informative evening last Thursday. We both had a lovely time”. – Paul and Sue Donnelly, Harrogate

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