It was a true pleasure to welcome eighth-generation winemaker Maria José López de Heredia to the Club, who hosted a Masterclass of a collection of wines chosen by the family especially for Members of the Club. It didn’t take long for Terry, our Head Sommelier to put pen to paper and recount the highlights of a truly fantastic evening.
It took me almost 3 years to get Maria José López de Heredia in the diary to host a Masterclass for our Members featuring the famous wines of the family; López de Heredia is one if the oldest Rioja estates, established in 1877 in Haro, the most famous wine town in the Rioja Alta sub-region.
Maria José and her husband José Luis guided our Members through the incredible history of Rioja. Additionally, we learnt about the importance of the French merchants and winemakers that played a crucial role in the early days of the establishment of the region, and the visionary approach of Raúl López de Heredia y Landeta – founder of the House.
Maria José’s great-grandfather laid down the foundations of the philosophy and approach of the family as winemakers. The family ensure they stay true to their origins, without changing too much. The family simply perfect and fine-tune, express their single vineyards in the best way possible, and have an approach to winemaking that captures depth, texture, weight and concentration wrapped in a captivating, unique perfume and elegance. For many modern drinkers, these wines might be out of fashion, but for those who appreciate the old-school, these are the real deal.
The white wines the family produce are just as capable of ageing as well as their reds, becoming nutty and oxidative with time and with a Sherry-like nose that for many is truly remarkable. I have very fond memories of a 1976 Blanco that was served a few years ago. Their 2001 Viña Tondonia Blanco was tasted on the night and I predict will become even better with time. This wine is vibrant, with lots of energy and a fine core of acidity that gives the expression a strong backbone.
The rarest wine they do is the Rosado, released in tiny quantities only 2-3 times in a decade. Maria José was telling us that when the whole family last met, she kindly asked them all not to request this wine for their own, personal family consumption and celebrations. We were lucky enough to try the current release, the 2008 along with the 2000. Truly superb wines.
When someone asks me about some of my favourite Rosé expressions, my answer is always a selection of Champagne Rosé and Viña Tondonia Rosado. The first one with age can be one of the most sensual wines – who doesn’t like Pinot Noir with age? The latter can charm you with the orange peel characters, the delicate oily nature, elegant and persistent, truly Spaniard, sun-kissed and full of energy. Last year on my visit to Mugaritz, my favourite pairing was a delectable Red Mullet paired with a glass of 2000 Viña Tondonia Rosado.
We finished with a small vertical of 6 wines from Viña Tondonia Tinto. ‘Tinted’ reds, as Maria José explained, was the chosen name as the whites used to be much more popular, and people didn’t like to drink Rojos. Their reds were just tinted whites…!
We had a taste of the 2007 and 2006 too, and although I thought that perhaps these wines maybe too young to judge, the potential is outstanding. 2005 was, as expected, lighter and elegant. The 2004 was broad and powerful, with lots of underlying power. When tasting the 2001 this wine had lots of tension, it was a bit shy but similarly to the 2007 and 2006, the potential is evident.
Last, but most certainly not least – the 1981 Gran Reserva…what a wine! Perfumed, seductive, glorious and long lasting. Even when I tried this wine the following day, it was still holding its beauty, unable to fade. For me, this wine is the Francisco Goya of the wine world, the Old Master, romantically crafted and scented.