Vega Sicilia’s New Release Tasting 2019 in London with Antonio Menendez Puente…

The Ribera del Duero is located in Spain’s northern plateau and is one of eleven Quality Wine regions within the autonomous community of Castile and Leon. It is of course also one of the most recognised and admired high quality fine wine producing regions to be found along the course of the Duero river. A largely flat, hot, dry rocky terrain that is centred around the town of Aranda de Duero, the region was upgraded from DOC to DOCa (denominacion de origen calificada) status in 2008 helped in large part by the global reputation and quality of the wines of Bodegas Vega Sicilia.

 

Undoubtedly considered the “first growth” of Spain and one of the most prestigious and respected wineries in Europe, this incredible producer located in the Ribera del Duero east of Valladolid, covers over 1000 hectares with around 230 under vine. Founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of local grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, and planted them together with Spain’s signature grape Tinto Fino, a local clone of Tempranillo.

 

The nearby Bodegas Alion estate is the final piece in the Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero puzzle, producing superb high quality wines that can normally be enjoyed in their youth or aged for at least a decade or more. Completing the portfolio selection is their Pintia from D.O. Toro and finally the new(ish) Macan Rioja wines made under the Bodegas Benjamin de Rothschild Vega Sicilia joint venture.

Macan Clasico 2016, Rioja DOCa

The hallmark opulent exotic Macan nose is beautifully marked by sweet lavender, black berry fruits, creme de cassis and a plush brûléed veil of vanilla pod and buttered brown toast. The palate texture is fabulously pinpoint and polished with very fine grained stony tannins offset against a fairly classical, medium bodied weight of fruit. Plenty of succulence and appeal.

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

Macan 2015, Rioja DOCa

The Macan big brother shows a noticeably darker tone of berry fruits with lifted notes of black cherry, blue berry and raisined damson plums that combine synergistically with nuances of grey slate, graphite and molasses. Sleek and lush on the entry, the palate is held tightly in check by a fine, noble framing acidity that lends tension and a feel of linearity to the texture. Tannins are very fine, powdery and grippy but we’ll balanced with the intense, saline black berry fruits. A really classy edition that needs nothing more than a few more years in the cellar before drinking.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Pintia 2015, DO Toro

A wine that grows in stature every successive vintage release. This great Spanish vintage offers up a deep, ripe, broody melange of molasses, raisined black plum, black currant reduction and smokey graphite spice. The palate is plump and glycerol with fruit opulence that is slightly clipped in its youth but which shows fine developmental promise with its crystalline acids and super sleek slatey mineral tannins. A lovely expression.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Bodegas Alion 2016, DOCa Ribera del Duero

This Alion has a fabulously dark fruited exotic nose with plenty of alluring blue and purple berry fruits, Parma violets and pink rock candy. The wonderful aromatic purity and precision continues on to a super lithe, supple, elegantly textured palate braced with fresh cool acids and tart black berry and black cherry intensity. The oak is impressively integrated already and the palate fruit weighted in the favour of finesse and creamy elegance. A really regal expression of Alion and possibly one of my favourite vintages in several years.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Valbuena No.5 2015, DOCa Ribera del Duero

Initially the aromatics on this Valbuena are tight, classical and ever so slightly broody with subtle notes of brown toast, vanilla pod, molasses and a caramelised plum note. The palate is bold and sleek, finely textured and notably elegant and fine boned. There is also plenty of ripe black fruit, cassis reduction, caramelised nuts and Christmas pudding exoticism. The sleek mid weight concentration and polished, sweet tannins point to possibly a slightly earlier drinking version but certainly no rush to open as usual.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva 2010, DOCa Ribera del Duero

Another finely layered, rich expressive Unico that is just starting to blossom after almost a decade. The nose is deep, dark fruited and earthy with sweet tannery leather, Christmas pudding, molasses and milk chocolate coated raisin nuances. Plummy, sweet fruited and wonderfully complex, this has the acid frame, glycerol concentration and baked black fruit intensity and power for the long haul. A very classy, well balanced sumptuous Unico.

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

Bodegas Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial NV (2020), DOCa Ribera del Duero

Like the Unico, this Reserva Especial is entrancingly deep and savoury with earthy black fruits concertinaed between tannery leather, wet river stones and graphite minerality. The palate is dense, weighty and glycerol with layers of earthy black brambly fruits that coat the mouth. So fabulously full, expansive, plump and concentrated yet it never loses its freshness or textural frame or shape. Lovely intensity and complexity, this is quite simply another blockbuster with youthful purity, glycerol unctuousness and sublime harmony and balance.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Marques de Murrieta Launches Their Spectacular New Reserva Tinto 2015 In London and Previews Their Castillo Ygay 2010 For the First Time…

As well as being the oldest winery in the new era of Rioja, being established in 1852, Finca Ygay remains the largest single estate in Rioja (Alta) with 300 hectares of prime vineyards. Current owner, Vicente Dalmau Cebrian-Sagarriga, Count of Creixell, has over the past 25 years in charge focused on updating and upgrading both the quality of Marques de Murrieta’s wines as well as the international reputation of the entire estate.

My last visit to the Finca Ygay estate was in 2017 after they had broken ground on their new wine cellar which received the 2018 harvest and will also take in the 2019 vintage despite the new layout only being due for completion in 2020.

With wine distribution now in 100 countries around the world, Vicente chose London as one of his first stops to launch the new 2015 Reserva Tinto and also preview their new 2010 Castillo Ygay, due for release next year.

Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja Tinto 2015, 14 Abv.

Grapes are sourced at the estate from vineyards located at 320m to 485m altitude with harvest starting on the 14th September and finishing on the 16th October. The 2015 is a traditional blend of 80% Tempranillo, 12% Graciano, 6% Mazuelo and 2% Garnacha. Grapes are destalked and destemmed before fermentation in stainless steel followed by 18 months ageing in 225 litre American oak barrels 7 of which are in new oak before being racked to 2nd and 3rd fill barrels.

A deliciously seductive nose of sun dried strawberries dipped in milk chocolate, ripe cherries and red bramble berries drizzled with balsamic with a subtle top note of mocha, cocoa and vanilla pod spice. The texture is plush and sensual, wonderfully elegant and fresh yet so supple and harmonious with the finest of powdery chalky tannins, sweet cherry liquor notes, strawberry confit and spicy vanilla pod oak notes on the finish. A really impressive benchmark expression of Reserva Tinto from a very good vintage in Rioja.

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

Marques de Murrieta Dalmau Reserva 2014, Rioja DOCa, 14 Abv.

A selection of the best fruit from a 465 meter altitude plot. The 2014 is a blend of 75% Tempranillo, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Graciano which was fermented for 11 days before 21 months ageing in new French oak Allier 225 litre barriques.

Rated internationally by critics from between 97 and 99/100, this wines reputation certainly preceded it. The aromatics are big and bold, packed full of dark chocolate, sweet black cherry and black current laced with cocoa powder and espresso vanilla pod spice. Seductive brambly black fruit notes fill the palate, punctuated by intense smokey black cherry concentration, piercing acids and layers of unctuous, hedonistic, opulent sweet tannins and glycerol fruit weight. This is certainly a very serious effort and possibly the best expression of the Dalmau blend produced to date. A seductive, thought provoking wine. Modern styled Rioja doesn’t get much better than this.

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

Marques de Murrieta Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial Rioja Tinto 2010, Rioja Alta, 14 Abv.

Castillo Ygay is always made from the grapes from the same La Plana single vineyard planted in 1950 and located on the highest plateau of the Finca Ygay estate at 485 meters altitude. A classical blend of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Mazuelo grapes that were picked on the 21st October. After fermentation, the wines were aged for 24 months in 225 litre American and French oak barriques.

The perfume and lifted fragrance on this wine are profound. The aromatics are more complex, nuanced and delicate than its predecessor 2009 with ethereal sweet violets, dried lavender, cherry blossom, kirsch liquor and hints of balsamic spice. The palate is more Burgundian than Bordeaux with incredible intensity and purity but also a lithe, delicate texture, weightless concentration and a long, sun raisined strawberry fruit finish. The tannins are like silk and the oak immaculately integrated already. While deemed “not ready” for release until March 2020, further time in bottle should only make this special wine even more spectacular. A real show stopper that is certain to take the world by storm. One of the best Ygay Tintos since the epic 2001 vintage.

(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Tenerife Wine Odyssey – Jetting Off to Tenerife For the Bodegas Suertes del Marques New Cellar Opening Celebration…

When I last visited this island winery in August 2017, owner Jonatan Garcia Lima elucidated his grand plans for a new winery. Then when I caught up with him at subsequent tastings in London in early 2018, he asked me to put Monday 4th of March 2019 in my diary to make sure I did not miss his grand cellar opening celebration at the El Esquilon winery in La Orotava.

 

Roll on another year and before I knew it, it was time to jet off to Tenerife. I was accompanied on the same flight by Tenerife aficionado Daniel Primack, the UK Zalto glasses distributor, as well as jet setting wine journalist extraordinaire, Jamie Goode from www.wineanorak.com.

 

With Daniel Primack, Jonatan and Jamie Goode.

After a very quick hotel check in, we were whisked straight off for a comprehensive barrel tasting of all the 2018 red and white cuvees in the grand new cellar. Suertes del Marques produces around 55 different cuvees which are then blended into around 17 different wines. However, their Vino de Parcela (single vineyard) wines are easily the most important component of their range.

 

The lower vineyards at Suertes del Marques planted on clay loamy soils.

Vidonia 2018 was still completing malolactic fermentation when we tasted it but all the wines, almost without exception, showed an attractive accessible purity and opulence akin to the excellent quality 2017 vintage, another warm year with plenty of moisture. Almost all the wines produced are from the La Orotava Valley, however, there are of course a couple of interesting experimental barrels lurking in the cellar like the excellent Sortevera Amogoje 2018 white blend from the Taganana area and also the Taganana Margalagua red 2018. Both show excellent potential.

 

The 200 to 250 year old Listan Blanco vines on the property trained in the Cordon Trenzado method.

I wrote an extensive description of the vineyards and winery in 2017 which you can read here… https://gregsherwoodmw.com/2017/08/22/the-tenerife-wine-odyssey-exploring-the-wines-of-suertes-del-marques/

 

The Stockinger barrels in the new cellar.

The basic terroir of the La Orotava Valley on the North coast of the island revolves around the Listan Negro red wines from vines grown on the more Easterly aspects, with their heavier clay / sandy soil components. In the West, vineyards are dominated by sandy stony basaltic soils which have proved more suitable for white varieties, primarily Listan Blanco, otherwise known as Palomino Fino.

 

As the El Esquilon Estate of Suertes del Marques sits in the middle of the La Orotava Valley, approximately 80% of the vineyards are planted to red varieties and 20% to white, with lower slopes dominated by loamy clay and the higher slopes basaltic sandy loam. Their main grape Listan Negro is a cross between Listan Blanco (Palomino fino) and Tinta Negro Mole, a variety better know in Madeira.

 

Tasting 2018s from barrel with owner Jonatan in the new cellar.

New 2017 Vintage Tasting:

Suertes del Marques La Floridita 2018, 12.5 Abv.

Pale cherry red, this wine is still very reductive but shows delicious strawberry pith and raspberry fruit underneath with a smokey basaltic mineral core.

(Wine Safari Score: 87/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques Suertes Cool 2018, 11.5 Abv. (NatCool presented in the 1 Litre bottle)

Listan Negro from 450m mid-slope vineyards. This new addition to the NatCool international offering shows a lovely fresh nose balancing crushed red berries, basalt minerality and bramble berry notes. Palate is sleek, ripe but noticeably lithe and elegant. Not challenging at all but retains wonderful complexity. A really pleasurable glassful best served slightly chilled.

(Wine Safari Score: 90+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes 2017, 13 Abv.

A fine Listan Negro parcel blend with the majority aged in concrete tanks. Jammed packed full of smokey volcanic minerality, strawberry and crushed raspberry fragrance, illustrating the plush elegance and accessible balance of the vintage. Sappy and fleshy, this red is already showing very well.

(Wine Safari Score: 91+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes El Lance 2017, 12.5 Abv.

Fine sappy nose with hints of whole bunch and resinous black berry crunch. Quite finely textured, harmonious balance and a chalky, mineral powder tannin finish. Very friendly wine with impressive mid-palate depth.

(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

 

Suertes del Marques La Solana Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13 Abv.

Fresh sappy nose packed full of leafy bramble berry fruits, subtle hint of reduction and a basaltic mineral undertone. Finely embroidered texture, chalky dry tannins and a smokey graphite finish. Pop this in the cellar for 5 years.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Candio 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13.5 Abv.

Very attractive nose of red bramble berry fruits, lavender and crushed rose petals. Super elegant with a creamy texture embellished by a lick of classy oak spice. Really harmonious and balanced, this is a class act. Crack into these on release!

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

 

Suertes del Marques El Chibirique 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcel, 13 Abv.

Dark and broody nose, this shows railway yard reduction, coal smoke, blackberry confit and a sappy leafy complexing aromatic edge. Medium bodied, suave and elegant but noticeably more restrained and mineral in style with a graphite, stony bite on the finish. Still very youthful, this is one for the cellar.

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

 

Suertes del Marques El Esquilon 2016 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 12.5 Abv.

Rich opulent forward vintage showing plenty of verve and vigour. Displays a lovely melange of chalky, stony, basaltic mineral tannins and dense, concentrated black berry fruits. Lovely accessibility, classy balance but real drive and intensity. Very impressive cuvee.

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

 

Suertes del Marques El Ciruelo 2017 Listan Negro Vino de Parcela, 13 Abv.

100% Whole Bunch and foot trodden in concrete. This has a fabulously complex nose with just the right amount of complexing reduction, struck match and smokey, sappy black bramble berry fruit. Very youthful at the moment but this shows as much potential as the epic 2016 I reviewed recently. Such balance and class. Shows everything that’s great about premium Tenerife Listan Negro.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Los Pasitos 2017 Vino de Parcela, Baboso Negro. 12.5 Abv.

Lovely nose full of gun powder smoke, graphite and crushed bramble berries, wet leaves and sap. Crunchy and fresh with taut glassy acids and a tightly wound finish with fabulously polished tannins. Very serious.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Cruz Santa 2017 Vino de Parcela, Vijariego Negro, 12.5 Abv.

Grown on clay soils. Soft sweet sappy and cool with plenty of base and treble. Pure black chalky fruits, fine minerailty, sweet and sour black plum hints and finely polished, tight grained tannins. Wow! Not a wine / cuvee I know very well but this is very impressive indeed.

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

 

Suertes del Marques Vidonia 2017 Listan Blanco Vino de Parcela, 12.5 Abv.

Alluring aromatics of white citrus, wet chalk, crushed green apples and pear purée. Lovely pure smokey note balanced by sweet quince, white peach and a spicy, lemon and herb complexity. Creamy and cool on the palate, this Listan Blanco parcela wine shows a lot of similarities to a fine slightly reductive white Burgundy. Really delicious but also quite a serious glassful!

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

Tasting Vidonia Parcela Listan Blanco 2018 from barrel.

 

Suertes del Marques Trenzado Listan Blanco, 12.5 Abv.

This Listan Blanco 6 parcel blend reveals a more lifted, exotic, fragrant nose than Vidonia brimming with yellow citrus pastille, waxy lemon peel, struck match reduction, maritime salinity and a wet chalk mineral note. Lovely fleshy concentration and depth with real class and complexity. Not quite the same textural delineation as Vidonia but wow, this wine packs a punch for a super price!

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

 

Looking South up the hill behind the winery.

Looking north down past La Orotava to Puerto de la Cruz.

The Suertes del Marques wines are imported into the UK by Indigo Wines.

Suertes del Marques Releases One of Their Most Elegant Vino de Parcela Reds to Date – Tasting the Ethereal El Ciruelo 2016…

Despite the warmth of the 2016 vintage, the top quality reds from Suertes del Marques display impressive freshness after owner Jonatan Garcia Lima adjusted the picking dates and the vinifications to counterbalance the effects of the warmth and remove any chance of over ripeness in the fruit. The results of these decisions are most marked in their Vino de Parcela wines and especially the El Ciruelo 2016.

The grapes come from a circa 100 year old vineyard grown at 480 to 520 metres altitude on sandy soils. It was made using 100% whole bunches with a 30 day maceration and alcoholic fermentation completed in concrete tanks before being aged 11 months in used 500 litre French oak barrels.

Tasting in London in February 2019 with owner Jonatan Garcia Lima.

Suertes del Marques Vino de Parcela El Ciruelo Listan Negro Vinas Viejas 2016, DO Valle de la Orotava, Tenerife

Like many of the 2016 tintos, this one is very noticeably lighter and brighter in colour than either the 2015 or 2014 reds. The El Ciruelo has an enticingly light translucent cherry red colour and while it is initially tighter with stony basalt aromatic restraint and some reductive notes to begin with, the wine soon opens its grip to reveal wonderfully pure red fruited Listan Negro aromatics of red cherry, red plum confit, wood smoke, sun dried cranberries and a volcanic, mineral, chalky terroir complexity. The palate is sleek, incredibly precise, slightly sappy and fabulously elegant with a lean, well defined textural frame on which a considerable amount of pithy, sweet, sappy brambly red berry fruit concentration is adorned. Perhaps shows a little less muscle power than the El Esquilon 2016, but what this wine lacks in density and brute force it more than compensates with finesse, freshness, accessibility and mesmerising harmonious balance. This wine has certainly emerged unexpectedly out of the 2016 vintage shadows as a very special cuvee indeed and one that will impress the most demanding Tenerife red wine connoisseur. Drink now to 2030+

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

Terroir Sense Fronteres – Launching Dominik Huber’s New Monsant Wines at Cabotte in London…

Dominik Huber was never destined to end up behind a desk in an office job. Son of a German butcher, he always desired a career path that would allow him to use his hands. In 2001 he started a wine project with Eben Sadie in Priorat, making the Terroir al Limit wines. After several years working together, Eben departed the project in 2012 to focus on his iconic Sadie Family Wines, leaving Dominik solo to refocus and try and take the winery and its wines on to the next level.

In 2015 Dominik finally managed to purchase his beloved Les Manyes Old Vine Grenache (1.5 ha) vineyard from a local farmer. But with this sale also came a parcel of 4 hectares of neighbouring vineyards. However, these vines were not DOC Priorat but DO Monsant… and so the new winery “project” found its inspiration.

Brisat 2017, DO Monsant, 12 Abv.

15 to 35 year old vines of 75% Grenache Blanc and 25% Macabeo grown on clay rich sandy soils at 300-350 metre altitude. Nose is rich and exotic with honied pear purée, pineapple pastille, savoury leesy bruised yellow orchard fruits and a slight oxidative, salty lift with a strong dusty mineral veil. The palate is cool, sleek and fresh with a lovely linear acidity and tension, smokey, stony minerality, wet river pebbles, ripe pears and yellow crunchy peach stone fruits. A real food wine that packs a punch.

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

Negre 2017, DO Monsant, 13 Abv.

15 to 35 year old vines of 75% Grenache Noir and 25% Carignan grown on clay rich sandy soils at 300-350 metre altitude. Colour is a surprisingly dense, dark purple black plum colour. Made using old school Burgundy techniques, 100% of the fruit was whole bunch fermented using native yeasts and minimal interaction for a gentle fermentation. The nose is a little reticent at first with subtle notes of black plum, black berry, sun ripened black cherry and savoury, earthy, meaty hints. The palate is more explosive with incredible layers of sweet & sour Victoria plum, tart black berries, a graphite rich stony minerality and complexing notes of sweet grilled herbs and spice. Deliciously bright fruited showing plenty of nervous energy, the finish is fine but drying with pin point dusty mineral graphite tannins. Should flesh out further with age as the coiled tension unwinds.

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

Dominik Huber at Cabotte Restaurant in London.

Vertebra de la Figuera 2017, DO Monsant, 12.5 Abv.

40 to 80 year old vines of 100% Grenache Noir grown on red clay and gypsum rich layered soils at 700 metres altitude. The high altitude yields grapes that produce a very light colour despite being vinified the same as the other darker wines. The nose is seductive and perfumed with lofty notes of cherry blossom, crushed strawberries, raisined cranberries and a raspberry rock candy confectionary note. The palate is linear and cool with laser like purity and textural light touch precision. The tannins are sleek and polished allowing the wine to tread very lightly despite its incredible intensity. The finish is taught and fine with delicious strawberry pip and stony mineral precision. Very impressive expression with a definite Burgundian feel.

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

Guix Vermell Negre 2017, DO Monsant, 13 Abv.

75 year old vines of 100% Grenache Noir grown on red clay rich with gypsum soil layers at 800 metres altitude. It has a beautiful bright purple ruby colour with the nose being richer, deeper, darker and creamier than the Vertebra, possessing an alluring depth of black plum, tart black berries, graphite, grey slate and dusty piquant exotic spices. There is a sense of something quite serious and profound in the glass with more classical austerity and dusty slatey mineral restraint tempering the bright vibrant fruit purity. Creamy dreamy wine with textured chalky tannins, this has the stuffing to age and the balance to evolve for sure. Something very special indeed that could finally put premium DO Monsant wines on the map. Let’s hope so.

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

These wines will be launched more broadly in Europe in March but will be available from UK trade supplier Armit wines from February.

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.