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.
Red Blend , Tempranillo