Wines Built to Stand the Test of Time – Tasting the Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Blanco 1976…

When ever I drink an old Tondonia white, I feel it’s almost a duty to document these vinous gems and capture their exquisitely complex and exotic nuances for future reference. The occasions and frequency to enjoy these old Rioja bottles becomes fewer and fewer as every year goes by yet many of them are still some years off peak maturity such is the greatness and age ability of these wines.

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Gran Reserva Blanco 1976, 12 Abv.

A delicious, incredibly well proportioned offering revealing beautiful freshness of grated lemon peel, bergamot, peach tea, bees wax and Japanese green tea with threads of caramelised oak and vanilla pod spice. The palate has an alluring tertiary oxidative note of diesel rag, sun dried apricots, creamy honied white peaches, bruised yellow orchard fruits and tart lemon cordial with a complexing lick of salted toffee spice on the finish. A wine that really blossoms with 15-20 minutes in the glass as it slowly unfurls its multi-dimensional offering after over 40 years of ageing. Just another beautifully profound Rioja Blanco from Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia.

(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Many thanks to Chef Roger Jones for sharing this delicious bottle over lunch.

A Rare and Wonderful Tasting Evening In London With the Owners of Lopez de Heredia…

The scarcity and rarity that now hampers regular drinking of the Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia whites, roses and Gran Reserva reds has been well documented. With such irregular releases due to very specific and long cellar ageing regimes, the wines of Lopez de Heredia usually sell out long before a successor vintage is ready to be released to the market with the only exception perhaps being their Reserva Tinto Rioja.

With Jose Luis scheduled to come over to London for Lopez de Heredia’s UK importer tasting, I managed to steal him away for a precious evening to present a wonderful masterclass centred around a selection of the rare Vina Gravonia white Riojas. But it was a wonderful and most welcomed surprise when at the last moment, Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia decided to join her husband on the flying trip to London.

Maria Jose and husband Jose Luis…

With a special line up of wines, Maria Jose and Jose Luis presented a fascinating and insightful masterclass to a sell out crowd of Rioja-philes. However, the evening was highlighted by Maria Jose as being even more special because of all the wines Lopez de Heredia produce, they never hold back archive stock of their Vina Gravonia, thus making vertical tastings of back vintages of this wine extremely rare and infrequent occurrences!

Vina Gravonia Vertical:

Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco 2008

Wet rainy year

Delicious freshness and vibrancy, liquid honey on white toast, roasted nuts, grilled herbs and bergamot nuances. Seamless, rich and texturally very harmonious and sleek, there is such fine balance and savoury lemon concentration. Youth, linear, taut.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco 2004

Cool high quality year

Delicately savoury and earthy bruised lemon and peach tea nose with old honey, nutty spice and subtle wood spice and crushed limestone minerality. Super sleek, relaxed and piquant, wonderfully harmonious texture but a resurgent, piquant, crystalline finish with power and persistence. Very youthful.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco 2003

Very hot, dry year

Richer and more opulent with peach tea, bees wax, honey, grilled nuts, bergamot and waxy green apples. Fleshy and more texturally honied and exotic with a lower acid mouthfeel but delicious richness and complexity. Delicious, ripe apple pastille finish.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco 2002

Difficult, wet rainy year with botrytis

Earthy, honied, savoury aromatics with a pronounced peachy, stone fruit character, almonds and crushed gravel. Palate is creamy, mellow, honied and beautifully plush and textural with a seamless satin mouthfeel, peach tea, apple purée and a tart, fresh spicy, crystalline pure finish. Very impressive.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Rioja Blanco 2001

An exceptional year

Super complex nose of wet limestone, old honey on white toast, struck flint, peach stone and vinyl and bees wax. The palate follows with liquid minerality, great tension and power, with a wonderfully mellow, relaxed, supple texture, fantastic focus and persistence and a long, complex, profound finish. Incredible white expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Blanco Reserva 2005

Very good year

With a small percentage of Malvasia blended with the Viura, vines are grown on clay and limestone soils and show a more honied, vanilla spice bouquet with cedar spice, roasted nuts, grilled herbs, dried mint leaf and lemon cordial. Palate possesses great gravitas, density and textural depth and breadth, with a creamy glycerol weight, wonderful smokey, nutty, peachy concentration and a soft, fleshy length. Beautiful wine.

(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Red Flight:

Lopez de Heredia Vina Bosconia Rioja Tinto Reserva 2006

Cool, dark, mellow elegant nose of polished mahogany, vanilla pod, savoury plum, black cherry and earthy black berry with a subtle layer of graphite minerality. The palate is super elegant, polished and finely linear with salty liquorice, black cherry, strawberry and a finely poised harmonious mineral finish. A beautiful, expressive, elegant rendition.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Tinto Reserva 2006

Sweetly fruited nose with delicious nuances of salty liquorice, caramelised black cherries, black savoury plums with a complexing note of polished oak in an old library. Beautifully textural, harmonious, suave and fleshy with piquant grip, graphite tannins and a fine, harmonious, minerality focused finish. Concentrated but accessible, very generous and a very smart expression of this iconic wine.

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

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Tinto Gran Reserva 1994

Impressively complex tertiary bouquet of polished mahogany, red apple purée, smokey graphite, charcoal wood embers, savoury root veg and beetroot earthiness with a subtle, salty, maritime, blackberry finish. Super creamy and lactic, plush and fleshy with complex earthy bruised plums and stewed strawberry and winter fruits. Dense and taut, grippy, youthful mineral tannins and a long, profound classical finish. Wow!

(Wine Safari Score: 96+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Rioja Tinto Gran Reserva 1980

Fabulous tertiary nose of malted chocolate milkshakes, coffee sweets, espresso, grilled nuts, almond spice, caramelised oak spice, creamy earthy stewed winter fruits and savoury bruised plums. Superb seamless intensity, harmony and focus in a mature, generous, intriguingly aged mellow Rioja style.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Post dinner drinks starting with some Mullineux white, who’s winemaker, Andrea Mullineux, is a close friend and follower of the wines of Lopez de Heredia.

The Unicorn Whisperer at Work – Tasting the López de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2004…

It’s always an exciting moment when one gets to drink a new release of Vina Tondonia and even more so when the colour is white! While the 2004 Reserva Blanco was released back in 2017, this was my first opportunity to leisurely drink a bottle of this delicious unicorn nectar.

Tondonia is of course the hottest topic at the moment with the long awaited new release Vina Tondonia Reserva Rosado 2008 finally released into the UK in April 2018. Very little Rosado will be made available but at least there should be around 35,000 bottles of the Reserva Blanco 2004 produced. Buy it while you can!

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco 2004, 12.5 Abv.

The delicious 2004 Reserva Blanco seemed to creep onto the market in 2017 under the radar of thirsty buyers probably due to its impossible rarity. Differentiated with the Gravonia Crianza Blanco by 10% of very old Malvasía Riojana, the Reserva 2004 is a complex, intense, sophisticated expression that was fermented in 140 year old oak vats with natural yeasts, where it also underwent malolactic fermentation. The aromatics are packed with dried peaches, herbal peach tea, earl grey bergamot notes and melted honey on warm white toast. Few wines are as evocative and beguiling as white Rioja from Vina Tondonia. The palate is rich and nuanced but at no point does it show overt oak characters. Instead, it just unleashes wave upon wave of honied yellow orchard fruits, tea leaves, lemon cordial, dried guava roll, lemon grass and pungent ginger spice notes framed by vibrantly fresh acids. This is another incredibly strong performance by a Tondonia blanco reinforcing its status as one of the ultimate unicorn white wines.

(Wine Safari Score: 95/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

The New CVNE Monopole Clásico 2015 Released – Reinventing the Past For a Future Generation of Wine Drinkers…

The world of wine is a big place with countless grapes, wine styles and production techniques. Indeed, wine has never been more mainstream and more popular than it is now. However, with this populism has come a growing tendency towards homogenisation, taking the safe option and producers not pushing boundaries any longer. A comment from UK wine journalist Jamie Goode recently sticks in my head… “just because most consumers drink boring commercial rubbish a lot of the time, doesn’t mean they don’t actually want to drink exciting, edgy, innovative wines too.” That’s where wonderful wines like the CVNE Monopole Clásico come into their own.

This Monopole Clásico white was produced from a blend of white varieties, hand harvested in 20kg cases at optimum ripeness. Softy pressed, as in the 1960s, the must went into concrete tanks for their debourbage / settling, then into stainless steel tanks for the alcoholic fermentation. Once completed, the wine was transferred with its fine lees into wooden vats and botas of 300 litres and 500 litres that had previously been used two or three times. The wine was then aged for around 8 months.

The uniqueness of this wine lies in the contribution of a small quantity of Manzanilla sherry, developed by the traditional method of crianza under “velo de flor”. The wines’ ageing contributes to its peculiar organoleptic characteristics, adding aromas of chamomile tea, dried fruits and nuts, and a long and salty aftertaste with a marked acidity.

The 2015 vintage proved to be one of the best in recent years, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Starting slightly early and proceeding at pace, throughout the vegetative cycle the weather conditions displayed classical textbook seasonality. A rainy autumn, a dry winter with heavy frosts, a rainy spring and a summer with large diurnal temperature shifts between day and night. Weather during the harvest was exceptional and allowed for a harvest with great quality, superb ripening and very healthy fruit.

CVNE Monopole Clásico Blanco Seco 2015, Rioja, 13.5 Abv.

A wonderfully tangy saline nose full of crunchy pear, sea breeze, oyster shell, almond skins, nutty Manzanilla flor spice and caramelised orange peel. Plenty of tension and coiled spring energy, this wine is known to flesh out further with an extra 6 to 8 months in bottle. The palate revels in its nutty, saline Intensity with oxidative Manzanilla sherry nuances whispering in the background, all the while tempered by pithy gooseberry and white stone fruits, chamomile and a dusty, chalky texture. So characterful and deliciously mouth watering, this is an admirably unique wine style that everyone should experience. Drink now to 2035+

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

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)