Bodegas R. López de Heredia | Rioja Alta, Spain
Bodegas R. López de Heredia is one of the wine world’s great wine treasures. Founded in 1877 by Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta, the Bodega was built close to the railway station at Haro, in Rioja, its location geographically symbolic for proximity of access to the ideas of Bordeaux and practically useful for transportation of both grapes and wines.
Don Rafael established the legendary Tondonia vineyards on the alluvial slopes overlooking the River Ebro on the cusp of the Alta and Alavesa Rioja wine sub-regions. Both a visionary and a romantic, his aspirations were impressive and included architectural plans that almost rival those of the Sagrada Familia, particularly as both buildings are iconic and remain unfinished!
Their famous Observation Tower at Haro is a great landmark and is a good place to witness the progress of the vines over the seasons. It is known locally as the Txori-Toki, the Basque term for a bird house.
The Lopez de Heredia portfolio extends over 170 hectares and four autonomous vineyard areas, of which Tondonia is both the largest (70 hectares) and the most famous. The other three are Cubillo, Bosconia and Gravonia; each with distinctive terroir and aspect and differing styles of wine.
In terms of grape varieties, the reds are dominated by Tempranilo, but there are also old-vine plantings of Graciano, Garnacha and Mazuelo. The whites come from both Viura and Malvasia, with more of the former planted, some of which is extremely old.
One feature above all underwrites the house philosophy and that is, of course, the use of oak, be it the large vessels used for fermentation or the Bordeaux-size barrels for maturation, of which there are over 14,000 in the bodega’s labyrinthine of cellars. New oak is shunned and the majority, but not all of the barrels, are sourced in America. The in-house Cooperage ensures that specifications are met and the ageing regime tends towards the longer end of the scale, albeit within the limits prescribed by the laws of the Denominacion.
The quest for perfection at López de Heredia is paramount and the wine is released only when ready. The quality is such that the top wines maintain a plateau of perfection for years and years, often decades.