“Lopez de Heredia is the apotheosis of traditional, classic wines: taut, fresh, bucolic, utterly charming and amazingly long-lived” Neil Martin

The top producers in Rioja are a well-kept secret producing the most traditional illustration of the world famous grape, Tempranillo; Lopez de Heredia is unquestionably one of these. In terms of value for money leading critics believe they top the list, offering years of ageing, combined with passion and superb quality. Many of these producers age their wines for a decade or more before release and often produce wines that compete with Bordeaux and Burgundy in terms of quality, at a fraction of the price. The tradition of ageing means that the wines are released ready to drink, but will also age spectacularly for decades.

In his tasting notes Luis Gutierrez of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate states that Lopez de Heredia has a problem, ‘they don’t have enough stock to cover market demand… . ‘I’m not talking about their historical vintages here – which are also available on the price list – I’m only talking about the current releases.’  Lopez de Heredia produce around 20,000 cases of their Tondonia Reserva in years they release and we are delighted to be able to offer their 2002. Allocations of the 2001 have already been exhausted, which we released for £110 per six bottle case; the average market price for the 2001 is now £120. This makes the 2002 look fantastic value on release for £100 per case, £16.60 a bottle in bond, or £22.46 duty and VAT paid. For a leading world producer and for a wine with 12 years of age this is a remarkable price and immediately available.

The vintage in 2002 was classified as ‘good’ by the Regulating Council, confidently stating that the Reservas have evolved very well and are showing elegant quality. Tondonia Reserva is certainly one of the best and Tanzer states that it is ‘quite impressive for the vintage‘, awarding it an excellent 93 points. This is not surprising considering the quality of the estate’s terroir and painstaking wine-making practices. The 2002 presents a wine that is ready to drink now, its elegant and complex fruit profiles make it perfect to be consumed on its own, or paired with meat dishes, such as lamb stuffed with wild garlic and rosemary.

The wines of Lopez de Heredia for many create an emotive and transcendent leitmotif. The vineyard was founded in 1877, a time when French negociants searched Rioja for the best vineyard plots to source grapes while Bordeaux was decimated by Phylloxera. It was at this time that Don Rafael Lopez established their world famous Tondonia vineyards that vaunt alluvial slopes overlooking the River Ebro, straddling the Alta and Alavesa wine sub-regions. The vineyard is close to the railway station at Haro, a symbolic reminder of the need to transport their grapes to Bordeaux to fill the void left in the wake of Bordeaux’s most difficult era.

It was here that Don Rafael channelled his knowledge, passion and vision into the romantic architecture reminiscent of the Sagrada Familia. Today you will find this structure still unfinished near the observation tower at Haro, known locally as the Txori-Toki, a Basque term for bird house. This overlooks the 170 hectares of the Lopez de Heredia estate of which Tondonia is the largest and most famous (70 hectares), the other vineyards are Cubillo, Bosconia and Granvonia, each with a different terroir and style.

Don Rafael fell in love with the region and especially the area around Haro, the mythical capital of the Rioja Alta region. He observed that there was a magical combination of soil and climate that would offer the perfect environment for producing wine that would eventually become world famous. The bodega continues in the capable and equally passionate hands of Maria-Jose, Mercedes and Julio Cesar, the newest generation who grew up in the vines and stay true to their magnificent combination of terroir, aspect and climatic conditions.

Lopez de Heredia is the most traditional Spanish winery in the Rioja region; they continue to use large American oak barrels, forgoing the smaller French style many other producers in Rioja have subsequently changed to. They store and age their wines for decades, far longer than the minimum requirements for Reserva and Gran Reserva, they even make their own barrels!

Lopez de Heredia Tondonia Reserva 2002, 6×75 – £100 IB or £134.76 including duty and VAT

Stephen Tanzer, 93 Points
Exotically perfumed bouquet of spicy red fruits and dried rose, with a slight medicinal cast. Taut, refreshing redcurrant and bitter cherry flavors are complemented by notes of mint and licorice, with a peppery quality adding bite to the back end. Quite impressive for the vintage, finishing with very good clarity and spicy cut.” (80% tempranillo, 15% garnacha, 3% graciano and 2% mazuelo) Medium red.

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