Desperate Bordelais growers and wine merchants started arriving in Haro, Rioja at the end of 1860’s shortly after the dreaded phylloxera vastatrix had started devastating their cherished vineyards. They were looking for suitable land that was free of this disease.
Rioja is close to Bordeaux, produced similar wines and offered a lot of suitable land to growers.
It was during this period that Don Rafael Lopes de Heredia y Landeta decided to learn the wine trade since he was planning to start a winery.
Around 1877 he commissioned the design and construction of the winery now called Lopez de Heredia. The building was the most imposing of the town of Haro, and still today dominated the skyline of this prosperous urban center in the heart of Rioja.
Don Rafael was a visionary and foresaw the need for expansion and bought much more land than was needed at the time.
A man of impeccable judgment and precaution, he even had some of the same type of stone with which the winery was built reserved, just in case he needed to expand the cellars. Today the bodega is still expanding.
In 1913 Don Rafael purchased a 100-hectare property along the right bank of the River Ebro. Today Vina Tondonia represents one of the most traditional of all the vineyards of the company. The others acquired over the years are: Vina Bosconia, Vina Cubillo, and Vina Gravonia.
All of the vineyards are in the prestigious Rioja Alta sub region of Rioja. All told, on the average Lopez Heredia vineyards (170 hectares in total) yield 800 000 kg of fruit annually.
This winery’s philosophy is to produce the best and most cellar worthy Rioja wines. For this reason Don Rafael had designed a 200-meter long cellar that today accommodates 15,000 barrels. He was the first in the region to buy oak casks from Cantabria and Bosnia, also Allier and American white oak for experimental purposes.
The winery is one of the few in the world that still employs coopers to repair and produce barrels.
I have had several opportunities to taste Lopez Heredia’s wines and must say that never once came across a disappointing bottle.
All Lopez de Heredia wine are cellar worthy and elegant.
Viana Tondinia (white) consists of viura, and malvasia, is dry and balanced to enhance poached, fried, grilled and deeply flavoured fish such as salmon, kingfish, tuna and swordfish.
Vina Tondonia (red) is a blend of tempranillo (the best red grape of Rioja), garnacha, mazuelo and graciano. This wine is always barrel aged for four years and two in the bottle before release. It is always smooth, full-bodied, and fruity with an excellent acid backbone and long finish. It goes well with grilled beef, game stews, hard, aged cheeses and country terrines.
Vina Bosconia spends three years in oak and two in bottles before release. Deceivingly pale in colour but not in bouquet, this wine is full-bodied, beautifully balanced, and smooth, with an elegant and long finish. Most appropriate with roast leg of lamb, of., cheddar or manchego and game stews.
Vina Cubillo spends two years in cask and one in bottle. This is a mid-weight, fruity wine perfect with cold cuts, tapas, canapés, and roasted vegetables.
Vina Gravonia is made exclusively of viura and aged for four years before release. This dry, fruity, crisp white wine has a refreshing flavour with an elegant finish. It goes best with steamed shellfish, fried or baked seafood i.e herring, or salmon.
Lopes Heredia’s four year aged rose must not be overlooked for its perfumey aromas, fruit, balance and full body. It goes best with roast pork, roast turkey and cream cheeses.
Lopes Heredia wines are more expensive than regular Rioja wines, but in my opinion well worth the extra cost. They represent good value.
Winery website: http://www.lopezdeheredia.com/