Tonto or not tonto?
Author: Guest Blogger
The word ‘tonto’ in Spanish refers to someone who is stupid or foolish, and unfortunately in one’s adventures through wine it is inevitable that such ‘tonto’ wine producers will make appearances: winemakers who are more interested in selling wines in bulk as early as possible, sometimes even stopping or quickening the fermentation process in order to get them out to market faster. This, however, makes it all the more satisfying when one comes across producers who are committed to giving their wines the full chance to mature in not only cask but bottle also.*
I recently visited the great wine region of Spain, Rioja, for the very first time, and with regards to the above, it has been a revelation. The incentive for the trip was not only the fact I had not tasted some Riojas before, but to meet, discuss and to taste the wines with the producers, seeing as this is always the best way to understand the region, the wines and the variation of styles offered. Fortunately I was not alone, and I could benefit from the knowledge and expertise of Berrys’ Spanish wine buyer: Simon Field MW.
Our two day trip essentially consisted of visits to some of our listed producers located in the Riojas Alta and Alavesa: Artadi; La Rioja Alta; CVNE and one recent addition to our list, Bodega López de Heredia.
I had a chance to discover earlier this year the Rosado Gran Reserva 2000, but in all frankness I did not know that much about the producer, and this is where this trip did its magic.
This Bodega was founded in 1913-1914 by Don Rafael López de Heredia, who was keen since founding to release his wines after lengthy bottle ageing (6, 8 or 10 or even more years).
This estate is composed of four vineyards: Viña Tondonia (100 ha); Viña Cubillo (24 ha); Viña Bosconia (15 ha) & Viña Zaconia (24 ha).
Our host Maria-José, the founder’s great-great grand daughter, added a lot of passionate anecdotes to the visit. Not only did she offer us a Grand Tour of the premises but also took us to the vineyards, where we were treated to a wonderful and complete wine tasting too.
I will focus here on our first two samples, which were tasted blind: a white and a red, both from half bottles.
The first impression I had was of wines of great individuality and character for both samples. The white had a bright and deep old gold colour. The nose was clean with some vegetal and aromatic herbs notes. Dry on the palate, it did suggest some oregano, basil, coriander and spices. This was an extremely delicate and subtle wine with a really good depth of flavour and a nutty finish.
This was Viña Zaconia 1970.
The red had a bright and transparent garnet colour and an orange nuance on the rim to suggest its maturity. Very complex, it had a fantastic definition with some eucalyptus, damp humus, soft spices and leafy notes. Add to this a medicinal feel too. This wine had an extremely delicate structure, a wonderful complexity and a great freshness. A very savoury and elegant wine.
This was Viña Tondonia 1954.
These two wines are great examples of what this wonderful wine region has to offer in terms of character, distinction and individuality. It also shows that the notion of time is still of real significance.
Patience always repays those who can wait!
By Francis Huicq
*In theory Rioja wines classified as Reservas (good vintage) or Gran Reservas (outstanding vintage), must have been aged for at least three years in cask and bottle (a year in cask) for the former, and for at least two years in oak for the latter.