Lopez de Heredia
One of the many clichés employed by the wine world is the adjective “traditional”. However, there is one winery where that adjective very appropriately applies. Little about López de Heredia has changed in the more than 130 years since its founding. It occupies the same historic cellars and unlike most of their competitors, which are now owned by outside investors, López de Heredia is owned, and every detail of its operation is handled by the family who founded it.
Due to the way the industry has evolved in Rioja, most bodegas buy grapes from dozens of small growers, but not López de Heredia. They own every inch of the vineyards that supply their wines. In addition, they eschew any use of commercial yeasts and rely only natural yeasts present in their ancient cellar.
A visit to Lopez makes this all very clear. When you descend into the cellar you are met with a rush of cool air tinged with the telltale odor of penicillin. Carved out of solid rock, fifty feet underground, the cellars are at a constant 54 degrees, perfectly situated for the aging of wine and the cultivation of friendly microbes. The walls are black and wet with the occasional patch of white mold. Inside you will find 12,900 American oak barrels and 72 ancient fermenters as well as one of the worlds great collection of cobwebs.
The bodega is now in the capable hands of the family’s youngest generation—Maria José, Mercedes and Julio César. Yet, still nothing changes. In fact, these three are as philosophically committed to the winery’s traditions as their parents and grandparents were before them.
The wines are always masterful but in certain vintages can be transcendent. Lopéz labels their wines in all three rioja categories, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Technically almost all of their wines meet the regions criteria for Gran Reserva but as usual they do it the old ways, making Gran Reserva only in exceptional vintage.
"Vivid yellow-gold. Dried orchard and pit fruits, marzipan, buttered toast, vanilla, tarragon and pungent flowers on the intensely perfumed, spice-accented nose. Concentrated peach, pear nectar, orange pith, honey and vanilla flavors pick up a nutty quality with air. The vanilla and spice notes drive a very long, gently chewy finish that's firmed by a smoky mineral flourish." -Vinous
"2012 was a very complete vintage in Rioja, even if it was quite dry, and the 2012 Viña Gravonia Blanco shows superbly. It's very intense, with two levels of complexity, intensity and depth above the 2013 I tasted next to it. It has the textbook aromas of lanolin, diesel, mushroom, yellow dried flowers and chamomile, with perfect ripeness. The palate is round and glyceric, quite lush, and leaves your umami-laden mouth with a salty finish. This should develop nicely in bottle, one of the best vintages of Gravonia of recent times." -Robert Parker