R López de Heredia, Viña Gravonia 2004 Rioja


From €12.40, HK$160, $20.96, £16.95, CA$28.25, 25 Swiss francs, 5,400 yen

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Do your bit for the wine world by saving this nearly extinct species, classic white rioja. In its historic Haro bodega shown here, R López de Heredia is one of the great custodians of rioja aged for years and years in old American oak barricas, not just haunting reds but whites like this, too. And a fascinating rosado as well, one of the most extraordinary rosés in the world. Hardly any other Rioja bodega is making this style of wine; most of them are just churning out young, crisp, rather soulless modern whites that could be made anywhere (though Allende is an admirable exception).

López de Heredia's white Viña Tondonia Reserva is world-famous and released at an even greater age than the Viña Gravonia – but the slightly fruitier Gravonia is surely an enormous bargain. To be able to buy a 10-year-old, oak-aged wine for prices like those cited above all over the world is an extraordinary thing, and down to the energy and determination of the sisters Mercedes and María José López de Heredia who run this venerable family company today.

One of the keys to this is presumably their enviable vineyard holdings of 100 prime hectares around the cobwebby bodega in Haro. Not for them the usual Rioja model of buying in grapes. According to the excellent 2011 book, The Finest Wines of Rioja by Jesus Barquín, our old Spanish specialist Luis Gutiérrez and Victor de la Serna, the fruit for Gravonia comes from the 25-ha Viña Zaconia in the commune of Zaco.

The grape variety in question is that called Viura in Rioja and Macabeo in France, one that has inspired previous wines of the week and my article Macabeo/Viura – the Cinderella grape? The vines for Gravonia are an amazing age: up to 100 years old according to Berry Bros' Spanish buyer, which makes the wine look even more of a bargain. Quite apart from its four years in well-tended oak, as the family proudly boast, 'not a single grape from another region goes into our wines' – which makes you pause for thought. The 2004 vintage, by the way, is one of the most highly regarded of the decade in Rioja.

This wine is deep gold and unctuous yet dry as a bone and fresh as a daisy if you will forgive the clichés. It fairly winks at you in the glass and delivers the most wonderful cocktail of wax, citrus, nuts and quince, all very full bodied but quite refreshing enough, more because of its texture and bite than because of high acidity. I found it went absolutely beautifully with slivers of Iberico ham. This is white wine to drink thoughtfully and thankfully with food.

According to wine-searcher.com this lovely, fully mature wine is widely available in the UK, US, Spain of course, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Hong Kong and even the much-discussed Japan.

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