2008 R. López de Heredia, Viña Tondonia, $63
Winery Info: López de Heredia is one of the oldest and most staunchly traditional houses in northern Spain’s Rioja region.
For over a century they have made their wines exclusively from their own fruit, using all native yeasts, and no filtration. Making no concessions to modern technology or expediency, they age their wines up to 20 years or more (in barrels crafted by their own in-house coopers) before releasing them. While in years past they may have been regarded as a bit of an anachronism, with increasing interest in more natural, traditional wines, theirs have become much more sought after. All of their wines are sourced from single vineyards. 2008 is the current vintage of this wine.
Grapes: 75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 5% each Graciano and Mazuelo, aged six years in oak.
Vineyard: Tondonia, their oldest and most renowned vineyard, originally planted in 1913 in a shell-like depression next to the River Ebro. The soil is alluvial clay soil with a high proportion of limestone.
Flavor Profile: Fresh and aromatic, with notes of dried red fruit and toasted oak and great minerality from the soil. It has amazing structure, and deep, powerful flavors, balanced by fine, but firm tannins that soften as the wine opens up. A very classic Rioja!
Availability: They produced 180,000 bottles of this vintage. It is still in reasonably good supply for now.
Drinking Window: You could let this one age another five years or so to soften the tannins, then enjoy it anytime over the following ten years or so. (We currently have vintages of Tondonia dating back to 2004, if you want to see how this wine can develop as you wait!)
Food Pairing: Meat dishes of any sort, tapas, or charcuterie. The winery suggests Welsh lamb with wild garlic, rosemary, and anchovies.
2019 Ximénez-Spínola, “Exceptional Harvest,” $33
Winery Info: This winery was founded by Felipe Antonio Zarzana Spínola in 1729, in southwest Spain’s Jerez region, most famous for its production of Sherry. It remains in the family to this day and is now headed by José Antonio Zarzana. The winery works with only one grape variety: Pedro Ximénez, a white grape best known for its role in the production of Sherry.
Grapes: 100% Pedro Ximénez, harvested three weeks after the optimal point of ripeness, and thus more concentrated and aromatic with a bit of additional natural sweetness. Aged four months on the lees with daily battonage (lees stirring) in older American oak barrels. Formerly used for the house’s Oloroso Sherry, these barrels add elegance and aromatic complexity to the overall wine.
Flavor Profile: This wine has a deep golden color that will intensify as it ages. Ripe aromas of dried fruit and a hint of pastry lead to a full-bodied wine with flavors of red fruit, a hint of nuttiness, and rich texture. The good balance of acidity and subtle natural sweetness make it versatile with a wide variety of foods.
Availability: This vintage should still be available for a while.
Drinking Window: Delicious now, but with its good acidity it could also age another five years or so.
Food Pairing: Anything from rich pork or seafood dishes or Iberian ham, to a pumpkin pie.