1 de mayo de 2013

Rioja's Historic Wineries - Bodegas R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia

Rafael López de Heredia was  born in Chile in 1857, but was educated in Spain, completing his commercial studies in Bayonne at a time when Haro was in the full flush of shipping its wine to France in the wake of the phylloxera epidemic. Fired with a restless energy and enthusiasm for the wines, he founded his own concern in 1887, taking over the warehouses of the French négociant Armande Heff in the Barrio de la Estación in 1881. His company, rigorously traditional in his methods, has been one of the few that has never changed hands and is still controlled by the family.

The Art Noveau tower of the offices, with its high-pitched tiled roof and carved wooden facings, dominates the other low-built bodegas in the historic area of the railway-station. Inside, the lay-out and decorations remain as they always were: the winding wooden stairs, the brass-mounted windows of the counting house, the stained glass of the boardroom and the yellowin diploms of merit from bygone exhibitions, which lines the walls of the Director's room. Long may they remain so!

So it is with the bodega itself, built of quarried stone. Many are the sonorous names of the cellars comprising a great underground complex: Bodega Vieja, Bodega Nueva, Dolorosa, Bodega de las Reservas, El Caladillo, El Calado, El Frontón and El Cementerio. Most impressive of all is El Calado, tunnelled out of the sandstone, 17 m below ground and 200 m long, where the temperature is 12ºC and the relative humidity of 80º remain unchanged the year round.

All the receptacles used for making the wine, even the new 64.000-litre wats, are of oak, and the wine comes into contact with stainless-steel only in the vessel from which it is filled into the bottles. It is matured in oak barricas for three, four, five or six years and up to ten in the case of the gran reserva, and clarified in traditional manner with egg-whites. This operation, as well as bottling, takes place in the cellars where the wines have lain so long.

The largest of López de Heredia's 170 hectares of vienyard, providing 50 per cent of the fruit, is the famous Viña Tondonia of 110 hectares. The firm also owns three other estates, Viña Bosconia, Viña Cubillo and Viña Zaconia, planted in the proportion of 50 per cent tempranillo, 30 per cent Garnacho, 10 per cent Graciano and 10 per cent Mazuelo; like Tondonia, they have given their names to the wines.

Average annual productions was 1.2 million bottles. When young, the red wines tended to be tannic and hard, but open out gloriously, repaying long ageing in bottle. They comprised the stylish young 3º año "Cubillo", and the mature "Tondonia" and "Bosconia", of which the "Bosconia" was the bigger and softer. The classic old reservas in traditional oaky style, such as the marvellous 1942 "Bosconia", well merit our description of sumptuous.

There were no concessions to modernity, and even the white wines amounting to 25 per cent of production, were matured for long periods in cask. The dry white "Gravonia" and "Tondonia" werevbottled in their fourth and sixth yars, and the semi-sweet "Zaconia" abocado in its sixth. Great care was taken to prevent oxidation during racking, and the wines emerge oaky, but clean and fresh.

Typical of these wines at their best is the legendary 1953, markedly oaky, but soft and intense in flavour. Another classic of the same type, wonderfully fresh and still available in very limited amount, is the 1964 "Tondonia", made half and half from Viura and Malvasía and aged for six years in barrica followed by eleven to twelve in bottle.

Wines tasted:
Viña Tondonia 1991 Blanco Gran Reserva - 90/100 p. June 2013.
Viña Tondonia 1987 Blanco Gran Reserva - 92/100 p. June 2013.
Viña Tondonia 1981 Blanco Gran Reserva - 92/100 p. May 2013. 
Viña Tondonia 1973 Blanco Gran Reserva - 96/100 p. June 2013.
Viña Tondonia 1970 Blanco Gran Reserva - 91/100 p. June 2013.
Viña Tondonia 1968 Blanco Gran Reserva - 93/100 p. June 2013.
Viña Tondonia 1964 Blanco Gran Reserva - 96/100 p. June 2013.
Viña Tondonia 1985 Gran Reserva - 96/100 p. May 2013.
Viña Tondonia 1964 Gran Reserva - 94/100 p. May 2013.
Viña Tondonia 1954 Gran Reserva - 96/100 p. May 2013.
Viña Tondonia 1996 Reserva - 90/100 p. April 2013.
Viña Boconia 1996 Reserva - 91/100 p. April 2013
Viña Gravonia 1995 - 93/100 p. March 2013.
Tondonia Rosado 1995 - 91/100 p. January 2013.

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