If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
— María José López de Heredia
We are in Haro, the mythical capital of the Rioja Alta region. Its ascension to a prestigious winemaking region was ignited by phylloxera. A curious insect, brought by accident from North America to Europe, devasted vineyards across the continent. The Great French Wine Blight drove many winemakers to alternative regions. The French settled in Rioja because they found potential there.
Rioja, like many other regions, has seen its ups and downs, reflecting Spain's history. Though, having potential is not enough. The wine doesn't make itself. Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta was an enthusiastic student when French negociants visited Rioja in search of alternative grape sources. He followed their footsteps and fell in love with Haro as he saw potential in the combination of soil and climate. Around 1877 he began the design and construction of the complex, known today as the López de Heredia bodega, the oldest in Haro and one of the first three houses in the Rioja region.
López de Heredia is famous for being true to their heritage and house style. Unprecedented old-school wine, a time machine trapped in a bottle. Today, María José López de Heredia runs the bodega. She says "tradition" doesn't mean immobility or opposition to change. The world and nature follow their own rhythm. So they need to be flexible while maintaining eternal principles and criteria.
Reading about these wines is one thing. But it's always better to taste the history. So these are our stops. Equipped with a few glasses, of we go for an adventure.
López de Heredia produces wines in four ranges - Viña Tondonia, Viña Bosconia, Viña Cubillo and Viña Gravonia. All are named after vineyards.
Viña Cubillo has only one wine - a red Crianza. The three years that Cubillo spends in cask, plus four to five years in bottle before release, exceeds the legal levels for even Gran Reserva.
Viña Gravonia also consists of only one wine - a white Crianza. It is 100% Viura from 24 ha in the Gravonia (Zaconia) vineyard near the banks of the river Ebro. This vineyard ticks every conceivable box to produce white grapes which achieve ripeness and intricate character. It is further enhanced by four years in a cask and at least the same again resting in a bottle before release.
Viña Bosconia has two variants - Reserva and Gran Reserva. The former appears in a Burgundy bottle. It could be a hint of the elegant yet full-bodied wine within. The Gran Reserva is made only in exceptional years and is released only 20 years after the vintage.
Viña Tondonia is the most famous and largest vineyard of López de Heredia. It's made up of 100 ha of red and white grapes. Five wines are produced: Tinto Reserva, Tinto Gran Reserva, Blanco Reserva, Blanco Gran Reserva and Rosado Gran Reserva.
It means we will taste all but two wines from López de Heredia. And while we are missing Viña Tondonia Blanco Gran Reserva and Viña Bosconia Gran Reserva, we are still among the lucky few to taste so many rare wines in one go.
R. López de Heredia Viña Bosconia Reserva 2011
This wine secured the 🏅 5th place in our wine tasting lineup.
Viña Bosconia is a Tempranillo-based blend from the El Bosque vineyard. Don Rafael used to make Rioja Cepa Borgoña - a Burgundy-style wine based on Pinot Noir. The El Bosque vineyard is situated next to the river Ebro at an altitude of 465 m. It consists of 15 ha: 11 of which are Tempranillo, 2 ha of Garnacha, 1 ha of Mazuelo and 1 ha of Graciano.
Viña Bosconia Reserva 2011 was fermented in large 144-year-old oak vats and matured in used American oak barrels (225L) for five years. It was bottled in May 2018. It is unfiltered but fined with fresh egg whites. In total, 88,000 bottles were produced. To my knowledge, 2011 is freely available in Good Wine. The most recent release is Cosecha 2012, which is not available on our market yet.
R. López de Heredia Viña Cubillo Crianza 2014
This wine secured the 🏅 8th place in our wine tasting lineup.
Viña Cubillo is a blend of Tempranillo-based blend from the vineyard called Viña Cubillas. Historically these wines were called "Special Harvest". Located at 410 meters above sea level, the vineyard covers 24 hectares: 16 ha are under Tempranillo, 4 ha Garnacha, 2 ha Mazuelo and 2 ha Graciano. The average age of vines is 40 years.
Viña Cubillo Crianza 2014 spent three years in well-seasoned, neutral American oak barrels. In total, 150,000 bottles were produced. Prior to release, it spent four to five years in a bottle. To my knowledge, 2014 is freely available in Good Wine. The most recent release is Cosecha 2015, which is not available on our market yet.
R. López de Heredia Viña Gravonia Blanco Crianza 2014
This wine secured the 🥉 3rd place in our wine tasting lineup.
To talk in our bodega of white wines being exclusively young and uncomplicated, would be asking for trouble.
Viña Gravonia is 100% Viura from 24 ha plots at 340 meters above sea level in the Gravonia vineyard near the banks of the river Ebro. Historically these wines were called Viña Zaconia. The average age of vines is 45 years. The whole plot is planted only with Viura grapes.
To María José López de Heredia, Gravonia has to be very fresh with citrus freshness and some nuttiness but without the bitterness of the aged Tondonia, which they compare with the Carbonieux and such wines from Graves.
Viña Gravonia Crianza 2014 spent four years (or maybe even more because of late bottling) in barrels. In total, 25,000 bottles were produced. Prior to release, it spent four to five years in a bottle. To my knowledge, 2014 is not available in Good Wine. The most recent release is Cosecha 2015, which you can freely find on the shelves.
R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva 2011
This wine secured the 🥇 1st place in our wine tasting lineup.
Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta created the Tondonia vineyard between 1913 and 1914. Today the vineyard occupies over 100 hectares of land on the right bank of the river Ebro, where the most typical Rioja wines are grown.
Ageing wines should be seen as a pedagogic act; the wine is “educated", and hence should never be rushed through speeded-up improvisations which would destroy the biological process which give it its character.
Unlike Viña Gravonia, Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva is a Viura-based blend with only 10% of Malvasia - a rather rare grape in Rioja as it represents only 0.23% of Denomination's total cultivated area. The Viña Tondonia Blanco Reserva spends six years in oak. Only 19,000 bottles produced. After bottling, the wine spends up to four years in a bottle to acquire a certain smoothness and a range of aromatic nuances.
For those who enjoy this oxidative style, it's impossible to substitute these wines. Huge demand and low supply mean these wines are not easy to get.
R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosado Gran Reserva 2012
This wine secured the 🥈 2nd place in our wine tasting lineup.
Viña Tondonia Rosado is a blend of Garnacha (60%), Tempranillo (30%), and Viura (10%). It matured in American oak barrels for four years before being bottled. Then it spent a few years in the winery before its release. And 2012 is the most recent one. In total, López de Heredia produced 15,000 bottles.
R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Tinto Reserva 2010
This wine secured the 🏅 7th place in our wine tasting lineup.
The powerhorse of López de Heredia. Tinto Reserva is produced in huge quantities compared to some other wines. 2010 resulted in 260,000 bottles. And if you think about it, it's not that much. A blend of 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo that fermented in 144-year-old oak vats from when the winery was created and matured in well-seasoned, American oak barrels for six years. It was bottled in May 2017.
R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Tinto Gran Reserva 2001
This wine secured the 🏅 4th place in our wine tasting lineup.
The 2001 Viña Tondonia Tinto Gran Reserva is the most recent release. And they produce Gran Reserva wines only in exceptional years. For example, the previous release was Cosecha 1995. A blend of 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo that fermented in their ancient oak vats with indigenous yeasts and matured in used barrels for ten years. López de Heredia filled 25,000 bottles in July 2012. After that, the bottle waited for us to open it.
- Spain: Make Rioja Great Again! by Luis Gutiérrez (The Wine Advocate | July 2022 Week 2)
- R. López de Heredia
- Lopez de Heredia | Bowler Wine