Friday, August 8, 2008

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rosado

I’ll be right up front in disclosing that I don’t know all that much about the history or technical specifications of the wines of R. Lopez de Heredia. For more detailed background information than I can provide, a good starting point might be this post at Sniff and Quaff, a blog that’s new to me. Of course, the Lopez de Heredia website might provide some insight, too.

Image courtesy of

One thing I can say is that R. Lopez de Heredia’s Rioja have a reputation for extremely long life. Even their Rosado bucks the general rule that most rosés are best consumed in their first year in the bottle. And then some. I can also tell you that the wines, regardless of color, spend an extraordinary length of time resting in old wood casks, an oxidative process that eventually becomes – at least, if all things go right – antioxidative. Think of it, if it helps, in the terms of calluses on one’s palms, developed through hard work, or on one’s feet, the side effect of shoeless summers. In one sense, those calluses are scar tissue, a transformation caused by exposure and abrasion; however, they also offer a certain level of protection from further harm.

Rioja Gran Reserva "Viña Tondonia" Rosado, R. Lopez de Heredia 1997
There’s nothing bruised or callused about this wine, though. A blend of 20% Tempranillo, 60% Garnacha and 20% Viura, it’s come through its ten-plus year sleep with shining colors, all delicacy and distinction. Its hue, more pale apricot and new copper than pink, hints somewhat at its age. So do its aromas, at least some of them. Dried rose petals and persimmons were the first things to greet my nose, followed by a whiff of orange pekoe tea. Freshness still abounds as well, with peach skins, apricot pits and a touch of bitter orange marmalade – minus any and all suggestions of sweetness – vibrating with nervy acidity on the palate. Top that all off with a slightly saline, iodine mineral character and plenty of finesse. At this point, it’s likely that each and every bottle may result in a slightly different experience. This one was singing.

On a day when I answered one of Dr. Vino’s impossible wine pairing challenges with the suggestion of rosé (albeit of a different style than this), I’d like to pose the reverse challenge. What would you pair, or have you paired, with this wine?

I served it last night with a simple salad of fresh greens, heirloom tomatoes and decent oil-packed tuna, dressed with nothing other than a little good quality olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. It’s a meal for which I’d almost automatically look to rosé. But it dominated Heredia’s Rosado. Nothing unpleasant resulted, mind you. The food just wiped away the delicacy and nuance of the vino.

As big a champion as I am of enjoying wine at the table rather than as a cocktail, every once in a while a wine comes along that may just be best with nothing at all. But please, prove me wrong. Let me know your thoughts.

$23. 12.5% alcohol. Cork. Importer: Polaner Selections, Mt. Kisco, NY.


Florida Jim said...

Best, Jim

Do Bianchi said...

McDuff, the 97 Rosado is one of my all-time favorite wines and I drink it every chance I get (so reasonably priced for what it is). In my experience, this wine really opens up when paired with food and will pair well with a wide variety of flavors, especially garlic-heavy marinated seafood or grilled seafood. Come out to San Diego and we'll do some ceviche with it!

David McDuff said...

You're a man of many words, Jim, and they always count. Paella sounds damn good right now. After pairing the second half of the bottle with pork chops, rice and zucchini last night, I'm inclined to agree on your pairing suggestion. I think the richness of the oils involved in my salad may have been just a bit too mouth coating, needing something bolder/fruitier for cut.

Totally agreed as to the value. Just over $20 for something this good with 10 years of age is just crazy. And grilled fish, albeit lower-oil fish, was my first thought.

Thanks for the recommendations.

Brooklynguy said...

we did two things with this wine, both were great. first time we had it a few months back, we did jamon iberico, a nice pairing. but a week or so ago a friend came over with lobster and we grilled it, and paired with this. it was perfect, the way the rich lobster mingled with the wine.

Florida Jim said...

That lobster dish sounds good but I might use a little paprika in seasoning to bring up a spice note that fits this wine well.
Both paprika and saffron make me start to think of this wine - and if everything else seems to match, open it.
BTW, the 1993 is lovely now also.
Best, Jim

David McDuff said...

Thanks, guys. Lobster paella it is.

lagramiere said...

Amazing, I was just looking at their website this morning, and here is this post! I've never tasted the wines, as it is virtually impossible to find any foreign wine in my little corner of Provence! I'm headed to the European Wine Bloggers Conference in a few weeks and planned to go for a visit to stock up! Thanks for this post David!

David McDuff said...

Hi Amy,
It's great to see you here. I'll look forward to your reports on the visit as well as on the Euro Wine Bloggers Conference, that is assuming you'll ever find the time given that harvest season is just around the corner.

Joe Manekin said...

Great tasting note on this distinctive rosado. I'm with Neil - I like this wine and iberico. In my experience, as far as food pairings go, it is best to treat all LdH wines as you would many mature wines. Pair with simple foods; no flavors that are too strong. Another possibility for this rose - steak tartare.

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