Revisiting the Mind Blowing Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosato 2009…

I recently read an interesting tweet by my good buddy Dr Jamie Goode, one of the most well known global wine journalists writing daily on his http://www.wineanorak.com website. Never one to shy away from controversy, his tweet really did get me thinking.

Inspired by his comments, I thought I’d revisit probably one of the most authentic wines on the market that also happens to be one of the rarest new releases, the Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosato. I last tasted the 2009 vintage of this wine way back in June 2019 and also bought a couple of cases for myself. So with UK lockdown recently extended by a further three weeks, I thought it was time to crack one of these unicorns!

The controversial tweet…

The Lopez de Heredia portfolio extends over 170 hectares and four separate vineyard areas of which Tondonia is both the largest (70 Ha) and the most famous. The other three sites making up the estate are Cubillo, Bosconia and Gravonia, each with distinctive terroir characteristics, vineyard aspect and differing styles of wine. The Tondonia Rosato must surely be one of the rarest wines in their portfolio as it is aged for 10 years before release and is also not made every vintage.

Tasting the new Rosato 2009 release in June 2019 with Andrea Mullineux, Maria-Jose and husband Jose-Luis.

Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva Rosato 2009, Rioja, 13 Abv.

What a mind blowing Rosato wine experience. A fabulously iconic wine that offers up the expectation of greatness… and then delivers it in bucket loads! The nose is jam packed with notes of dried ginger, saline orange peel zest, star anise, red liquorice and enticing crushed pomegranate nuances. On the palate, there are seductive notes of bitter blood orange citrus, dried tangerine peel, sweet vermouth botanical spices, white peach and oodles of wet stone liquid minerality. A truly sublime palate that is supremely taut, saline, concentrated and linear while simultaneously being super elegant, slightly tertiary but beautifully pure and focused. All in all, any one lucky enough to drink this wine will experience a profound, authentic Vina Tondonia expression shaped by this iconic winery’s unique philosophy and historical cultural heritage. An incredible wine!

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

Unicorn Rose… the best of the best!

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)

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)

A Fantastic Culinary Adventure at Michelin Starred The Harrow at Little Bedwyn…

What better way to kick a bank holiday weekend off than with an indulgent evening of Michelin starred cooking and plenty of fine wine. But of course that’s what you get when you let chef Roger Jones spoil you with his fabulous cooking at the Harrow.

Incredibly, Roger had his usual spring in his step and looked as fresh as a daisy – and that’s after coming off a long week of judging at the Decanter World Wine Awards packed with early mornings and late nights. Very impressive stamina indeed.

Also, a big thank you to Sue Jones for her expert front of house and wine service. We will be back soon. 🍷🇬🇧

Hattingley Valley Blanc de Blancs 2011 En Magnum, English Sparkling Wine, 12 Abv.

Super creamy and fine with mature brioche notes and the most tantalising saline lemony edge. So much depth, vibrant white citrus acidity and defined chalky complexity. Very impressive.

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

Alpha Xinomavro Rose 2016, Macedonia, Greece, 13 Abv.

Lush and complex, this delicious rose shows earthy strawberry, savoury red cherry and chalky crushed gravel nuances. Full flavoured, dry, classy and very characterful, this Rose manages to tick all the boxes and leave you salivating for another glass.

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

Torbay Crab Macaroon

Hogan Chenin Blanc 2015, Swartland, 14 Abv.

Delicious mouth watering saline, white peach expression of Chenin Blanc with crushed gravel and wet slate minerality. Lovely full palate with crunchy peach, lemon grass, dried herbs and chalk nuances. A really classy expression. So drinkable already but will benefit from another few more years of ageing.

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

Seared Yellow Fin Tuna, Wasabi and Cucumber Sorbet, and Wasabi Pearls

Rioja Alta Vina Alberdi Rioja Reserva 2011, DOCa Rioja, 13.5 Abv.

A super sleek graphite and vanilla pod laden mouthful of deliciousness! Lovely subtle hints of sous bois, wild strawberry, dried fennel seeds and pithy cherry spice. Texturally very fine but also a wonderfully restrained, well proportioned palate that never puts a foot out of place.

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

Langoustine and Shrimp Ravioli, Langoustine Soup

Champagne Krug Vintage Brut 1996, 12 Abv.

Broad, expressive and complex with intense saline briney lemon citrus, honied brioche, lemon grass, lemon herbs and dried honey mead notes. Palate is super energetic, evolved but beautifully fresh, layered and beguiling. Going strong after all these years.

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

Boiled Egg and Soldier Pre-Dessert

Andrew Quady Deviation Dessert Wine, Madera, California, 15 Abv.

Fantastic alternative dessert wine with Rose Geranium and Damiana extract. The nose is bursting with yellow stem ginger, lemon pastille, vermouth botanical herbal notes and orange rind macerated in cognac. So complex and intense, but supremely fresh and clean on the palate, saline and slightly medicinal in an attractive way. Of course it’s all down to the botanical infusions. Absolutely delicious and an amazing match with dessert.

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

Cherry Soufflé Dessert

The Harrow at Little Bedwyn, High Street, Little Bedwyn, Marlborough, SN8 3JP, England. Tel: 01672 870871

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)

Rioja Alta’s Torre de Oña Martelo 2012 Bringing New Excitement to the Red Rioja Category…

La Rioja Alta is one of Rioja’s most respected wineries and recently launched a new premium wine produced from its Torre de Oña estate. Made from a single vineyard, this ‘reserva’ wine from the region’s coolest and highest sub-region, Rioja Alavesa, is a rare new premium addition to the Rioja Alta portfolio.

A blend of 95% Tempranillo and a 5% field blend of Mazuelo, Garnacha and Viura from 60+ year old vines, this is a very classy, polished expression from one of Spain’s most famous Rioja producers. This Reserva spends 24 months in 80% American and 20% French oak barrels, a higher proportion than normal according to Julio Sáenz, winemaker for La Rioja Alta. Despite the large US oak percentage, the wine retains impressive purity, minerality and varietal typicity for a premium Rioja.

Rioja Alta Martelo Rioja Reserva Tinto 2012, 14 Abv.

A beautifully piercing perfumed nose with hints of chocolate mocha spice, powdered cocoa, violets and small intense black berries with a definite gravelly mineral undertone. The wood notes are finely integrated and only show a subtle piquant mocha spice on the palate mixing with crunchy strawberries and earthy bruised red plum notes. No doubting this wine is engineered around taught, crisp premium Tempranillo with its hallmark fresh acids and red berry fruit purity. The finish is fairly linear and suggests subtle notes of polished oak, balsamic and buttered brown toast spread with red currant jam. Very youthful and tight, decant this delicious gem for 45 mins if drinking now or cellar for another 8 to 10+ years.

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

(Price point Circa £35 per bottle in the UK)