Back to the Old & in with the new – López de Heredia & Vintae

Once again it is the contrast of two excellent but completely different Riojan bodegas that make an impression on Pierre and Matthew

Two of the most memorable tastings came at opposing ends of the Rioja spectrum – the first at the headquarters of Vintae, and the second at López de Heredia. Vintae are a company that originated in Rioja but now own vineyards in 15 DOs (denominción de origen – equivalent of France's appellation controlee) across Spain, seeking to reinvigorate the Spanish wine market as well as champion the joy of garnacha. They describe themselves as a 'peculiar group of unique people, united by the same dream' and their passion is contagious. I've long been a fan of their 'Salvaje', a single-vineyard 100% garnacha from the north face of the Moncayo, so to taste their entire range from across Rioja and Navarra was a real treat.

A few particular favourites from the Vintae tasting include:

Salvaje del Moncayo Garnacha 2015 – One of my favourite wines but there is something extra special about the 2015 vintage. There is added perfume of damsons and plum alongside the delicious cherry and cranberry flavours.

El Pacto Crianza Rioja 2015 – 100% tempranillo from 70-year-old vines in Rioja Alavesa that blends the traditional and modern winemaking approaches in Rioja with aplomb. Aged for 14 months in new French oak this poised Rioja is creamy, full-bodied and spicy – fabulous.

We also got to meet a young winemaker from Txakoli who is making his wine in the Vintae winery, as you can probably tell from his labels, the wines were brilliant but bonkers – a bit like him!

Image of labels
Image of labels

The exquisite López de Heredia, a living museum of a winery

It's always a pleasure visiting López de Heredia, I was lucky enough to visit back in 2015 and had a chance to go into the cellars – something I encourage everyone to do if they're ever in Haro! This time was a whistle-stop tour to taste their recent releases. Well, when we say recent releases this is López de Heredia we're talking about…….

The line-up included their Viña Tondonia 2005 Blanco, showing pineapple, mango and hazelnut with a salty, almost peaty hint; Tondonia 2005 red Reserva with its astonishing red-fruit tang and vitality; to their legendary Tondonia Rosé 2008 Reserva (yes, a 10-year-old rosado that's spent four and a half years in barrel) showing an onion-skin colour, bruised cherry, watermelon and an intriguing oxidative touch.

The wines of López de Heredia are some of the world's most distinctive (for us really only Lebanon's Chateau Musar comes close) thanks to the incredibly long ageing before release of the wines (the 2005 Tondonias spend six years in barrel). But it's their ability to balance this with incredible acidity and freshness that makes them one of the world's greatest wines, and it's encouraging to know that with all that's going on in Rioja at the moment with changing laws and new styles coming through there are still the ultra-traditionalists for those that like these styles, and they don't come more traditional (though maybe a little on the quirky side too, for some) than López de Heredia! Long may it continue.

The ancient cellars at López de Heredia The ancient cellars at López de Heredia – well worth a visit if you are in the area

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Members' Comments (3)

"I visited Lopez, very interesting place, but the only thing that annoyed me was that it was the only one of the Rioja producers we visited that would not allow us to take personal photos. This kind of put me off them, a wine I have been buying for twenty years."

Mr Antony Brown (27-Jul-2018)

"Lopez de Heredia Rose, is there any point in writing about a wine that you don’t sell?"

Mr Antony Brown (27-Jul-2018)

"Hi Antony,

thank you for your comments. I have been to Lopez de Heredia a few times now and have never had any issues with taking photos so I'm sorry to hear this was your experience.

Having spoken to Pierre r.e. Lopez de Heredia Rose he has the following to say:

We do buy it but it is incredibly rare. A combination of tiny production and only released every three or four years. The Wine Society got the biggest allocation... Read more > in the UK for the latest vintage (mentioned above) but this is still just 5 cases (30 bottles), which would cause more frustration amongst our members if we offered for sale. Instead, we keep it to use at our events where 5 cases would bring pleasure to a greater number of members, which is in keeping with our co-operative model.

I'll also add that Travels in Wine stories aren't necessarily written as a sales tool - rather an insight in to Buyer trips and an update on recent vintages/regions for those that may not be able to visit themselves.

I hope this helps!

"

Mr Matthew Horsley (08-Aug-2018)

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