The Wine Drinker

This is the Dead Letter Office of my wine writing. These stories ended up not fitting on our company's Facebook page (Piedmont Wine Imports) or website,, for reasons that I think are clear once you scroll through a few posts. Less professional musings, impressions that ultimately never got past the rough prototype stage. Um... enjoy!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

R. Lopez de Heredia: I Hope the Future of Spanish wine resembles this Past

In Luis Buñuel’s classic 1961 movie Viridiana there is a climatic scene in which the street people taken in by the title character leave their dormitory and break into the main house on the estate and stage a dinner party. In the scene’s final moment they are frozen in a “picture” that grotesquely mirrors Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. For that reference alone the movie was banned for the duration of Franco’s rule in Spain. The movie also asks pointed questions about the corruption of ideals in reform. . .and in the dining room, our band of motley outsiders are drinking (what else!) R. Lopez de Heredia! I say if it’s good enough for Buñuel’s antiheroes, it’s good enough for patrons of my dining room.

Some (maybe more useful) information. Founded in 1877 by Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta, R. Lopez de Heredia is the oldest winery in Haro, and the third oldest in the entire Rioja Region. Haro is the cultural capital of Rioja Alta, an area known for making many of Rioja’s greatest wines. In 1911 Don Rafael began planting Viña Tondonia, a 240-acre site on the right bank of the river Ebro. From the beginning the approach at this winery has been to age wine to perfection prior to its release into the marketplace. Few if any wines from this property are released younger than five years old, and presently A Southern Season has reds, whites and rosés from 2001, 1998, 96, 95, 88, and 1981 in stock. And many older vintages are available. Heredia is a rarity, a winery whose philosophy and ageing techniques, while once common, are now remarkably out of step with their sleek 21st century counterparts. To use one of many examples of the difference, Lopez de Heredia currently has over 15,000 Bordeaux-size barrels of wine in their cellar. Most wineries, out of necessity or indifference, keep significantly smaller holdings of reserve wine. In the current vintage flagship Viña Tondonia is 80 percent Tempranillo, ten percent Garnacha and five percent each Mazuelo and Graciano. To me wines from this estate taste of a different, maybe better, era when wines were more distinct, more subtle, more of a living food and less of a homogenous product. This wine may not be for everyone, but it is a complex and thought-provoking red that I think many adventuresome Lantern patrons familiar with elegant, mature flavors in wine will appreciate.


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