From Zero to Hero – The Traditional White Rioja Style That Has Taken the World by Storm…

It’s funny how the status of wines changes in the blink of an eye. I remember asking Maria-Jose Lopez de Heredia why the whites of Bodegas Lopez de Heredia had become impossible to buy within the period of only 1 to 2 years. She rolled her eyes, gave a small gasp and explained that global demand from top sommeliers, top restaurants and fine wine collectors had exploded literally overnight.

For years, she explained, the traditional oxidative white styles of Rioja were very difficult to sell. They were real marmite wines – some people loved them, some hated them. But one thing most people agreed on was their suitability and versatility with a wide variety of cuisines. However, a decision had already been taken at Lopez de Heredia to replant a large portion of their white grape vineyards with higher demand red varieties.

Murphy’s Law in action… and fast forward 7 to 8 years while the red vineyards matured and in that time, the market and demand had been transformed, with the oxidative whites of Lopez de Heredia and a few other producers like Marques de Murrieta becoming some of the most sought after wines for a new generation of wine drinkers. These are consumers who covet these rare, aged, unique oxidative whites as well as increasingly other previously unfashionable styles of wine like Sherry, Madeira, skin contact whites and amphora fermented whites.

So with quantities of white Lopez de Heredia Rioja basically halved, even entry level wines like their Vina Gravonia, aged for 10 years before release, are becoming increasingly rare. The cooler 2007 vintage and current release Gravonia, produced a superb 2007 Blanco from very old Viura vines planted on gravelly soils. The wine was fermented with natural yeasts in old oak vats and then matured in oak barrels for four years before being fined with egg whites and bottled in September 2012.

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Vina Gravonia Crianza Blanco 2007, Rioja, 12.5 Abv.

The 2007 Vina Gravonia Crianza white offers up such complex, individual and unique aromatics and flavours that there is almost nothing else quite like this wine being produced in Rioja, let alone at a similar quality and price point. The nose has such depth and intensity with nuances of cold chamomile tea, old honey, sweet oak spice, bees wax and lemon citrus infusions. The honied lemon tea character slowly gives way to reveal notes of vanilla pod, mushroom soup and subtle forest floor earthiness. On the palate, there is significant textural weight and flavour concentration that corresponds so beautifully to the wines intense tertiary aromatics. The acidity is very precise, fresh and finely balanced with the most subtle savoury character. Another fantastic addition to the long historic Vina Tondonia white Rioja lineage.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

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