On a recent Monday night there was a tasting of wines from López de Heredia Viña Tondia at Union Square Wines.  I can normally get pretty excited by any wine tasting, but this one was truly special.  López de Heredia Viña Tondia, located in the Rioja wine region, is known as Spain’s most traditional winery.  Heck, look at their bottles, you don’t get more old school than that.  They are beautiful.  And so are the wines.  They are wines of unique character, and represent the singular dedication of a family, a place, and a style of wine making that has changed little since 1877.  I think that they so represent Spain, because Spain is nothing, if not traditional.  As the wines are made in a very traditional manner, they do not taste like anything made in an international modern style, such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay or any other well known grape variety for that matter, especially the white wines.  The whites are done in a slightly oxidated style which takes a bit of getting used to, but in a good experimental way.  And as María José López de Heredia, who was on had to talk about her families wines, said:  “Some people think we oxidize the wine, but we fight the oxidation.”  Anyway, they poured all their current, red, white, and rose vintages, as well as a few older vintages.  This was a big tasting of a lot of wines, and there was a great turn out, the place was packed to the rafters.

López Heredia 1999 Viña Gravonia Crianza Blanco $29.99

This was the younger of the two whites served, and for most white wines, this might be considered, over the hill.  And although the wine has an oxidized quality to it, I found it to be very fresh and complex and a pleasure to drink.  This was my favorite out of the white/rose bunch.  The color of this wine in the bottle is so interesting it’s a medium rich yellow, with a hint of orange.  There is a sweet honey and pineapple fruit nose.  There is also a nutty almond quality and scents of charred whiskey barrel, caramel, and flint.  This really is an exotic and alluring wine that really breaks you out of the mold of what you have come to expect as a white wine today.  I couldn’t recommend trying any of the wines from the tasting more than this one for its uniqueness.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – MUST BUY – EXCELLENT VALUE

López Heredia 1990 Viña Tondonaia Reserva Blanco $49.99

This white reserva takes us back two decades, and you would think for a white it would be long gone, but you’d be wrong.  Although it is not as fresh as the 1999 Gravonia, it was still surprisingly fresh for its age.  It has a medium rich yellow color, and a fresh citrus nose.  There are hints of white pepper and a bit of tartness on the finish.  It lacked some of the richness of the Gravonia, but was very compelling none the less.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

López Heredia 2000 Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva Rose $29.99

An interesting and dry rose, it has a nose of ginger ale and strawberry bubble gum, but is very subtle.  The wine is light and it has a slightly dry finish.  Loved the nose.  RECOMMENDED

I guess I should be thanking Monica Nogues of Think Global Wines as well, the distributor for López Heredia here in the states.  She is pictured pouring at the tasting, which she did with grace and composure throughout the night.  Thank you Monica!  Well, I raved about the whites, which are truly among the most unique wines produced today, except that they have been produced that way for a very long time.  About the only thing that is not traditional about this winery that I can find is the modern structure which has been literally dropped over an older structure.  But then again, that is Spain.  Think Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, for example.  And let’s discuss the history of the winery a bit more shall we.  Start with those beautiful old school bottles.  Why are they covered in wire you ask?  Well, good question, they were traditionally covered in wire as an additional protection against fraud.  See, back in the olden days, unscrupulous sorts would uncork and drink the wine in transit and replace it with god knows what.  The wire became an additional precaution to labeled corks and labeled capsules (the foil thing that is usually over the top of the bottle and the cork).  López Heredia covers the tops of their Gran Reserva bottles with wax, as opposed to the standard capsule.  Additional insurance.  Anyway, I think it is time to move onto the reds, which can be equally as interesting as the whites or the history of the López Heredia.

López Heredia  2004 Viña Cubillo Crianza 2004 $29.99

This medium bodied Rioja is garnet in color, with a nose of roses, fresh earth, and pepper cured meats.  It also has good acidity and freshness.  A young traditional Rioja that could pair with almost any type of fair, but an evening of mixed tapas sounds about right.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – EXCELLENT VALUE

López Heredia 2000 Viña Tondonia Reserva $49.99

For me this was the star from the reds.  Medium garnet in color, as all the reds turned out to be, not much browning of the edges of these wines, no matter what the age.  There was a slight oxidized quality to this wine on the nose, but it also packs eucalyptus, charred oak sherry barrels, and blood sausage with subtle red fruits and floral aromas.  This wine seems equally mature and young at the same time.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

López Heredia 2001 Viña Bosconia Reserva $37.99

This wine is a bit different, the bottle shape suggests a different style of wine as well.  To me, it has hints of a Burgundy wine in terms of the fruit.  Medium garnet color with a nose of sour cherry, pomegranate and red cherry.  There is a good round mouth feel and good acidity.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

López Heredia 1991 Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva $110.00

This was the first of the older vintages that were opened at the tasting.  There was only one bottle of each and it was great to taste these older wines as they are pretty rare.  The 1991 had a great bright berry quality, a bright garnet color, and good acidity.  There are also flavors of liquorish, black pepper and dried Italian herbs.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

López Heredia 1985 Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva $149.99

This wine had a richer quality than the 1991.  There are flavors of grilled meat, and a rose like floral nose.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

López Heredia 1981 Viña Bosconia Gran Reserva  $144.99

Still bright garnet in color, as all the red wines seemed to be.  There were hints of smoked fire, and lots of bright cherry and floral notes.  Good acidity and still drinking very well.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Well that concludes the wines tasted from Heredia Tondonia.  It was an epic tasting, though these wines are not power houses, but rather restrained and subtle wines which leave you searching for the words to describe them.  As María José López de Heredia stated:  “The best wine is the one you cannot describe.”