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.
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.