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Passion for Spanish wine

WINERIES

López de Heredia is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful stories in the world of Spanish wine. The winery was founded in 1877 by Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta, great-grandfather of the current owners, together with a French négociant who returned to his country once the phylloxera crisis was over. López de Heredia continued with the business, first with other partners and later on his own. He was a visionary – by 1900 he was determined “to sell wine to those who owned cars, wore ties, spoke English and were connected to the Royal Household”.

The ambitious architectural project he designed for Tondonia at the traditional Barrio de la Estación neighbourhood in Haro has not yet concluded, but his descendants obediently follow his original designs. The fourth generation, led by María José López de Heredia, has dabbled with modernity -the shop designed by architect Zaha Hadid is an example- but prides herself in her commitment to the family heritage. Proof of that is the launch of a cultural project to record and classify the winery's vast archives which include documents, photographs, furniture, tools used in the fields... everything that has formed part of the winery and the family throughout their history.

Time seems to have come to a standstill at R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia. There can be no other winery tour as illustrative as this in order to imagine life at the great Rioja wineries a century ago. Its wines are unique in Rioja too as they have not yielded to modernity – they are the most classic among the classics. The estate owns 170 hectares of vineyards. Viña Tondonia occupies 100 of them along the Ebro river and produces the most famous wines. Other vineyards are Viña Cubillo, Viña Bosconia and Viña Zaconia.

Wines are still vinified with native yeasts, long aging periods in old American barrels (the winery has it own cooperage where barrels are lovingly repaired and fine-tuned), clarified with egg whites and bottled without filtration. Their alcohol volumes are lower than other Rioja wines, whereas acidity is notably higher. Textures are rather special, maybe due to the slow natural decanting that the wines experiment throughout the years they are kept in barrels.

Entry level wines are Viña Cubillo Crianza, a red wine aged for three years in barrels (around €12 in Spain), and Viña Gravonia Crianza white, aged for four years in oak and priced at €13. The largest production (250,000 bottles) corresponds to Viña Tondonia Reserva Red, the flagship wine, which spends six years in barrels and retails at €22 in Spain. Viña Bosconia is the other Reserva and it is presented in Burgundy-style bottles. Aged for five years in oak, it has a production of 40,000 bottles and costs around €18.

The Gran Reservas, aged in barrels for at least 10 years, are less abundant (production rarely exceeds 20,000 bottles) and is not unusual that the whites are released after the reds. Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco (€58) is a collector's item -only 22 vintages have been released in the history of the winery. There is also a red and a rose version – exotically unique in the world. The current vintage of Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosado is 2000, aged in oak barrels for four years. The Gran Reserva portfolio is completed with Viña Bosconia, a lesser known brand but capable of reaching greatness. The 1947 vintage is legendary for its incredible and surprisingly slow evolution in the bottle.

R. López de Heredia wines have turned into veritable gems with an increasing number of followers among critics and wine lovers. It is no surprise that the winery, which sold 90% of its wines at home in 1998, now exports half of its production.

TASTING NOTES

Viña Tondonia Reserva 2002 Tinto
Viña Tondonia 1970 Tinto
Viña Gravonia Crianza 2005 Blanco
See all the wines

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