Updated: Jun 17, 2020
For over 143 years, López de Heredia Viña Tondonia has made some of Rioja's finest and most distinctive wines. And City Cellars just got a shipment of their wines in the store so you can taste these special wines for yourself. In this blog post, we explore the winery, its history and how it gained prestige in the Rioja region.
It all began in the mid-nineteenth century, when French negociants (merchants who assemble the produce of other, smaller growers and winemakers to sell under their own name) began exploring Spain’s Rioja region in search of alternate grapes to transform into wine after an epidemic of phylloxera had decimated their own grapes. The founder of López de Heredia, Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta, was a winemaking student and followed in their footsteps. He fell in love with Rioja, especially the area around Haro.
Don Rafael realized that this region had a magical combination of soil and climate that would create the perfect environment for growing amazing wines - wines that would eventually become world famous. In 1877, he began construction on what is now known as the López de Heredia bodega, which is not only the oldest in Haro - it’s one of the first three houses in the Rioja region.
To this day, López de Heredia is family run, and one of the few family-run bodegas in Rioja regulated by Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja - DOC (Appellation region). While many wineries around the world market themselves as having centuries of family-owned winemaking tradition, López de Heredia is a place where you really feel it. Visiting the winery gives you the feeling of going back in time, while the extremely patient winemaking process shows their commitment to that family tradition.
The estate covers 53,076 square metres, including 19,718 square metres of buildings, of which 3,433 square metres are underground cellars. Since 1877, new buildings and additions have been added on - like cathedrals of old, every successive generation of the family takes on constructing an aspect of Don Rafael’s original plan. This continuing family commitment to the plan ensures each generation leaves their own mark on the winery.
The most iconic feature of the complex is the “Txori Toki” tower, or “bird house”, as translated from the Basque name. The tower was built not only so the winery could be seen from a great distance, but also to create an observatory where weather conditions and the vineyards could be studied.
The López de Heredia winery is also the only bodega in Spain that handcrafts their own barrels used to age their wines. Their onsite coopery buys oak straight from the source, and though this creates additional effort as opposed to simply purchasing barrels like other wineries, López de Heredia considers their coopery and knowledge of barrel making a huge part of their success.
López de Heredia helps ensure they maintain high quality wines by owning and tending to their own vineyards. Viña Tondonia is their premier vineyard, founded in 1913, and is responsible for the most well-renowned of their wines. For a long time, the López de Heredia wines had different names depending on the style of wine, but today, the label of "Tondonia" is internationally famous. This beautiful vineyard over 100 hectares in size, set on the banks of the Ebro river, is responsible for the highest quality wines, such as the Reservas and Gran Reservas. The first reserva was bottled in 1890, and a few bottles still remain in the family’s wine museum!
López de Heredia owns three other vineyards set in the Rioja Alta region - "Viña Cubillo", "Viña Bosconia" and "Viña Zaconia".
Vineyard care, a meticulous selection of grapes, ageing in oak barrels made onsite, and the later ageing in bottles all contribute to making these famous wines with an extraordinary bouquet. And since 1877, the bodega has never used grapes grown in any other regionsm a fact acknowledged by the DOC in the form of a "Diploma de Garantía" (Diploma of Guarantee) awarded solely to López de Heredia/Viña Tondonia.
Stay tuned for the next blog post in our Tondonia Takeover this week, where we learn about the wines that have made this winery so respected and famous!