Had a Glass: 2001 R. López de Heredia Rioja Reserva Viña Tondonia

Vintage: 2001
Producer: R. López de Heredia
Variety: Tempranillo Blend
Designation: Viña Tondonia
Region: Spain
Sub-region: La Rioja Alta, Rioja
ABV: 13.0%
Price: $58 (BC LDB), $60 (EWine)

He says: After all the acclaim and hyperbole I gave to the Blanco (white) from the same Producer, I’m going to have to take a few steps back from the ledge on this one. Even though this was 9 years younger than the Blanco, it tasted twice as old. The fruit is fading, getting absolutely dominated by the secondary flavours of leather & earth, and the acidic/tannic backbone is slowly dissolving. It’s a decent wine, but probably not the best Tempranillo I’ve ever tried.

She says: This wine did not live up to the $58 price tag or the hype of the Lopez de Heredia name. I had high expectations for this wine as one of the pinnacles of Rioja. It was enjoyable but it did not blow me away as other aged Rioja’s have done in the past.

Tasting note

Looks like: Clear, med ruby w/ fading garnet rim
Smells like: Clean, med intensity, fully developed, leather, earth, mushrooms, herbaceous, black fruit
Tastes like: Dry, med acidity, med body, med+ intensity, med- tannin, sweet ripe black fruit, leather, herbaceous, fruit is really fading, med alcohol, med+ finish
Summary: Good, Ready to drink, Drink now

8 comments to Had a Glass: 2001 R. López de Heredia Rioja Reserva Viña Tondonia

  • I’ve had this twice, I will say there was big differences in bottle variation, the fist one was amazing blow me away, Dried Roses, Red fruit amazing, 2nd bottle was good but not blow me away again. Guess that’s the only problem with bottle aging its going to vary

    • WCVR

      At that price, and with that much bottle variation, we’d have to say “avoid” this wine. I’d hate for a wine enthusiast starting off on their wine journey to be put off by wasting $60 on an ‘off-bottle’ of this. No wonder 95% of the market sticks to sub-$20 wine. Safety in value.

  • This is not a reason to stick to sub $20 wine. The problem with this wine is not the winery but the fact that it has been stored improperly at Container World and in most BCLDB stores. Wines like this need care and proper storage. That said, you might prefer the Bosconia 2001 which has more fruit and is pretty darn delicious. You cannot judge a wine in BC without considering every factor that may have influenced it. I have found that true on numerous occasions, particularly with wines made with less preservative chemicals such as this.

    • WCVR

      Hi Shea,

      The focus of this blog is to consider wines available to consumers in BC (or occasionally, down the road in Seattle for those importing). Therefore, if we have a bad experience with a bottle available at the LDB, we will write about it as a warning to others. Your comments about poor storage/handling are even more reason for the “everyman” to save their $60 and stick with something that is guaranteed value or less prone to bottle variation. Our audience isn’t the person who can afford to travel to Rioja to drink from the source.

      We drink a lot of wine, as do you, and a $60 off bottle isn’t the biggest deal in the world to us. When approximately 95%+ of wine purchases is at the $15-20 level and we want to encourage people to explore up the price scale, it’s a disservice to recommend wines that show poorly and potentially put off a wine drinker’s enthusiasm.

      We’ll keep an eye out for the Bosconia 2001.

      Again, thanks for your comment. /Mr

  • I understand your perspective – and I’m sure I sound pretty harsh in text (my fault). But if you could definitively say there is bottle variation then sure I’d agree with that perspective. But tasting 1 bottle is not sufficient for making that determination – I guess I’m just passionate that you shouldn’t write off one of the most important producers in Spain or encourage others to try it just because you didn’t like 1 bottle. Additionally, whose to say that it wasn’t the particular store you got it at? Firefly and Kits both carry these wines and have better storage. I am not saying you shouldn’t share your opinions on each particular bottle you drink, but it’s also not fair to the producer to write them off based on a single bottle, especially given their dedication to the history and culture of wine in Spain and abroad. Wine is ultimately extremely variable unless you dump it full of chemicals. I my (not so) humble opinion I think anyone who wants to start taking the plunge into more expensive bottles has to understand and accept this. It’s not about finding the holy grail, it’s about exploring the uniqueness of each region, each producer and each bottle – both good and bad. What matters is the intellectual, sensual, and communal aspects of exploration and passion, which I’m sure you know.

    Anyhow, I’m simply offering my ridiculously vociferous perspective – and the only reason I comment is because I like what you guys are doing and only want to encourage more! It’s rare to have blogs/wine writing by people who actually care about wine and think about it beyond the obvious or the banal. So keep it up!

    • WCVR

      Hi Shea,

      Responding to just one of your many points…

      The thing I dislike about stating ‘bottle variation’ is that we’re very quick to excuse a poorly showing wine to an unknown cause, but the same cautiousness is not used in the market when reviewing a wine considered good. If a reviewer criticizes a wine, some will respond that they should have done more tastings to ensure that their review is consistent and verified. Does anyone ask a reviewer to do this with a wine that shows well? Are they held to the same standard of multiple tastings to verify their work? What if that great bottle was the only good one in the batch that somehow escaped oxidation?

      No one expects the wine reviewing community to taste from multiple bottles sourced from multiple origins/transports. This is definitely true when a bottle shows well, but strangely not as true when a reviewer drinks a poor bottle. I dislike that inconsistency.

      Anyway, has little to do with your comment, but just something that irks me about the bottle variation statement.

      Finally, no one is writing off R. Lopez de Heredia, and we’ll be drinking more of it in the future. In fact, last week we had a bottle of 92 Blanco opened at a tasting, and the sentiments were pretty mixed on it. I wrote all the negatives off as poor palates. ;-)

      Cheers /Mr W

  • I’d also add that whether or not a particular bottle appeases one’s personal tastes, it is still important to think of it more broadly. Others may still like these wines and it is our responsibility as writers to be honest not just about what we like but also about the broader import of a wine or winery, and the more objective characteristics of the wine. Understanding what it is, communicating that, and then letting others decide for themselves. Isn’t that the wine writing ideal?

    • WCVR

      Hi Shea,

      I thought about this a lot on the weekend (as well as the comment you left on the 92 Blanco).

      Our blog is fitting a niche that is somewhere between the two extremes you’ll find online:
      - quick blurb reviews: as seen in most wine magazines (where they rifle through their 50 reviews for the month), or in most ‘professional reviews’ published in newspapers, weekly rags, etc.
      - in-depth, focused articles: as seen in those same wine magazines when they feature a region/winery, and also well-represented locally by your work on Just Grapes Wine or by the crew at Cherries & Clay.

      We are just a few steps removed from the quick blurb format, providing a little bit more opinion on the technical aspects, and some comedic banter between two tasters for levity. I understand the emphasis of a wine writer in broadening our understanding of all things grape, but we are not aiming for that as a goal.

      Hope that makes sense.

      Cheers /Mr W

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