LÃ³pez de Heredia is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful stories in the world of Spanish wine. The winery was founded in 1877 by Rafael LÃ³pez de Heredia y Landeta, great-grandfather of the current owners, together with a French nÃ©gociant who returned to his country once the phylloxera crisis was over. LÃ³pez de Heredia continued with the business, first with other partners and later on his own. He was a visionary â by 1900 he was determined âto sell wine to those who owned cars, wore ties, spoke English and were connected to the Royal Householdâ.
The ambitious architectural project he designed for Tondonia at the traditional Barrio de la EstaciÃ³n neighbourhood in Haro has not yet concluded, but his descendants obediently follow his original designs. The fourth generation, led by MarÃa JosÃ© LÃ³pez 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. LÃ³pez de Heredia ViÃ±a 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 â they are the most classic among the classics. The estate owns 170 hectares of vineyards. ViÃ±a Tondonia occupies 100 of them along the Ebro river and produces the most famous wines. Other vineyards are ViÃ±a Cubillo, ViÃ±a Bosconia and ViÃ±a 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 ViÃ±a Cubillo Crianza, a red wine aged for three years in barrels (around â¬12.5 in Spain), and ViÃ±a Gravonia Crianza white, aged for four years in oak and priced at â¬15. The largest production (250,000 bottles) corresponds to ViÃ±a Tondonia Reserva Red, the flagship wine, which spends six years in barrels and retails at â¬26 in Spain. ViÃ±a 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 â¬20.5.
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 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 â exotically unique in the world. After a few years on standby since the 2000 vintage, the Gran Reserva 2008 rosÃ© (around â¬55), which has been matured in oak for four years, has just been released. The Gran Reserva portfolio is completed with ViÃ±a 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. LÃ³pez 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.