Product information

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia Reserva HALF 2011

Red Blend from Spain, La Rioja


$72ea in any 3+
$69ea in any 6+
Alc: 13%
Closure: Cork


This is the perfect example of the nuances of maturing wine. The desire to achieve development through élévage whilst retaining freshness and energy. To have a depth of flavour whilst quenching thirst. To achieve balance. To create a scent that ought not exist.

Tasting a wine should always be about what’s in the glass not the numbers, the numbers are there to help those at the extreme end of wine love comprehend how a creature like this could be.

At just 13% the Tondonia is 1% or more lower in alcohol than most Rioja yet it had excellent depth and length of flavour. The sign of a vineyard that is lovingly cared for. The pH is at the lower end of the spectrum and the acidity heading up for a red, again a sign of a vineyard in good form. These kinds of numbers lead to freshness and the ability to quench thirst. With pH and acid at those levels time would have been needed for the wine to resolve. Something López de Heredia embrace. This wine being released at 12 years of age with better than half that time in barrel.

The secondary earthy, truffled, forest floor, lightly leathered complexity wrap vibrant fruit. Savory with woody herbs and a delicate perfume, there is just an edge of grip to the mouthfeel that I suspect comes from very tightly integrated oak. A slice of Jamon will see them melt and cleanse your palate.

Tasted blind you would be forgiven for believing the wine to be an exceptional 30 year old. Drinking beautifully now it will undoubtedly live for many years to come. The oxidative stability from such an aging process will offer a very slow evolution from here. It draws you in ..“Drink Me! Drink Me!” it calls.

6 years in American Oak is a statistic that would scare many, myself included. Once in the glass, all fear disappears.

It’s no surprise that the crews from Ar.Pe.Pe and López de Heredia know each other well given both have mad élévage skills.

The 2011 Viña Tondonia Reserva is darker and shows riper fruit, a rounder palate and some dusty tannins. A year of ripeness, concentration and tannin, the wine is powerful with the finesse of Tondonia. Tasting this next to the textbook 2010 Tondonia revealed how this has more muscle and a wider back and the 2010 epitomizes the finesse and elegance. 270,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in May 2019. Drink 2022-2029

Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate 94 Points

Available on back-order

Check out all of the wines by R. López de Heredia

Why is this Wine so Yummy?

I tasted up to three vintages of the same wine as it has been some time since I tasted them, and I also sampled the forthcoming vintages to be released in early 2023. The next vintage of Gran Reserva will be 2004, when they produced all three wines (the rosé was not produced, of course, it was a year in the hiatus between 2000 and 2008). 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011 and perhaps 2013 (for a sentimental reason, when their father died) will also be Gran Reserva vintages. What I tasted made sense with the character of each vintage—brilliant 2010s; a warm and more evolved 2011; a very good 2012; an atypical and challenging 2013; a cool and balanced 2014; and a warmer and riper 2015. As a bonus track, I tasted (and swallowed) the 2004 Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva, and I can tell you I cannot wait for the wine to be released in 2024…

Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate

About R. López de Heredia – Viña Tondonia

It all started in the middle of the nineteenth century when French negociants visited the Rioja region to find alternative sources of quality grapes to transform into wine, since the phylloxera epidemic had decimated their vineyards.  Our founder, Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta, a knowledgeable and enthusiastic student in the art of winemaking, followed closely in their footsteps.

Don Rafael fell in love with the region and especially the area around Haro, the mythical capital of the Rioja Alta region. He observed that there was a magical combination of soil and climate that would offer the perfect environment for producing wine that would eventually become world famous. Around 1877 he began the design and construction of the complex that is today known as the López de Heredia bodega (winery), the oldest in Haro and one of the first three bodegas in the Rioja region.

For over a century our emotions have been rooted in our love and passion for this land and its harvest. We cherish our heritage, and this combination of love and the rigorous quality standards we apply, have become our trademarks and remain our maxim for today and the future.

Bodegas López de Heredia stands out as one of the few family-run bodegas regulated by the Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja – DOC (Appellation region).

You can learn more about Viña Tondonia here.

Tradition and conviction

For us, tradition and conviction are life-long attitudes. Our winemaking process has been passed on from generation to generation, and our daily tasks are rooted in tradition, yet at the same time based on our deep belief in the validity and modernity of our methods.  By “tradition”, we do not mean immobility and opposition to change; rather a dynamic and aesthetic concept in maintaining eternal principles and criteria. We are perfectly aware of the rhythm of change, and for this reason, our openness to change, our flexibility, our non-conformism and our self-criticism enable us to face the future. What we have inherited from our ancestors is what converts our idiosyncrasies into positive qualities and attitudes.

Our current and future promises can be summarised by two ideas that have always epitomised López de Heredia:

Professionalism, as artisan winemakers, offering the consumer a distinctive product of supreme quality.

Ethic, promoting the well being of all those who work within our bodega by contributing to the happiness of our friends and customers and giving to society the best of our hopes and dreams.

I have adored, indeed occasionally worshiped, the wines of Lopez de Heredia for many years, so I am not ashamed to admit that visiting both their vineyard and their winery was a pilgrimage. Founded by Rafael Lopez de Heredia y Landeta in 1877, it has withstood the tide of corporatization and homogeneity, and epitomizes timeless, artisan winemaking in their own individual, almost solipsistic manner. Technology is noticeable by its absence here. For example, to quote her sister Maria-Jose at a tasting that I subsequently attended in London: “Indigenous yeasts have adapted to high temperatures. To control the temperature during fermentation, we open doors and windows” and “malolactic is the invention of modern winemakers.” I had to check whether this was 2012 or 1912. If you were to award points for charisma, then this producer would be in a league of its own. That would count for nothing if their wines were not distinguished, individual, long-lived and above all, delicious. It is commonly known that if you are seeking bags of fruit and lashings of oak, this is not the place to come. My views and these scores might be irrational to someone with a penchant for lush, voluptuous Rioja. Lopez de Heredia is the apotheosis of traditional, classic wines: taut, fresh, bucolic, utterly charming and amazingly long-lived. I spent two or three hours with winemaker Mercedes Lopez de Heredia, who was celebrating her birthday with, appropriately enough, a bottle of Tondonia Gran Reserva from her year of birth. I urge readers to access the video I took of Mercedes explaining the vineyard in her own breathless style. In the meantime, I will crack on with the wines “Wines should talk by themselves,” Maria-Jose enthused to her enraptured audience at a tasting in London. “My father was a vine maker, not a winemaker. Each wine is a reflection of a different land that my great-grandfather bought. Our wines respond to the history of Rioja.” I would add to her comments that since these are mainly aged wines, a bottle of Lopez de Heredia is an individual and each time you meet, you may see a different side to its personality. So treat these reviews as they are: snapshots at a given moment. We commence with their white wines and indeed, I know of several connoisseurs who rate these even better than their reds and I can sympathize with that view. “The white wines were made as a copy of Graves and were made to be aged,” Marie-Jose continued. “So they are made like reds and are harvested at the same time. They undergo skin contact for one, two or three days to absorb the preservative from the skins and pips. Viura gives complexity as it ages.”

Neal Martin 2012

In the Vineyard

To consistently produce high quality wines it is necessary to own vineyards, where constant care can ensure a consistent quality of grapes – something which cannot be guaranteed when buying from other growers.

For this reason, Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta founded Viña Tondonia in the years 1913-14.  Tondonia was to become the bodega´s most famous vineyard and product.  Viña Tondonia is a beautiful vineyard of over 100 hectares, situated on the right bank of the river Ebro, where the most typical Rioja wines are grown. Apart from Tondonia, López de Heredia owns three more vineyards also set in the Rioja Alta region. These are the “Viña Cubillo”, “Viña Bosconia” and “Viña Zaconia”. These vineyards are planted to ensure that maximum quality starts in the vines themselves, forming the basis of the reputation of our wines.

View of Viña Tondonia during the winter of 2005The Tondonia vineyard has to be is the most spectacular in Haro. Situated in a shell-like depression next to the River Ebro which serves as a border with Rioja Alavesa (the part of the Rioja appellation region belonging to the Basque Country), it is characterised by poplar trees.  The soil is alluvial clay with a high proportion of limestone. The vineyards, cared for with enthusiasm and love, cover a total area of 170 hectares and produce an average annual yield of some 800,000 kg of grapes.  Grapes from Viña Tondonia are always used in making our highest quality wines, and naturally, with truly exceptional vintages, becoming “Gran Reservas” if the vintage is truly exceptional – as was the case in 1976, 1973, 1970, 1968, 1964, 1961 and 1954.  The first “Reserva” was bottled by the founder as long ago as 1890. A few bottles of this are still kept in the family wine museum.

In the Winery

All fruit is hand-harvested.

Whites are crushed to release the must and fermented in 60 hectolitre vats.

Reds are destemmed without delay, fermented using wild yeast in 240 hectolitre vats. Fermentations reach 36ºC. Pumpovers are used to manage the cap and oxygenate the wine. The wine is pressed off skins after around 7 days. Malolactic fermentation takes place in barriques.

Wines are racked of lees as soon as the malocatic fermentation is completed. Viña Tondonia has some 14,000 American oak barrels, these are well-seasoned barrels. The wine is racked once or twice each year to clarify and oxygenate the wine. Wines are fined using egg whites.

Ageing wines should be seen as a pedagogic act; the wine is “educated”, and hence should never be rushed through speeded-up improvisations which would destroy the biological process which give it its character.  Wines need to spend a minimum of three years in barrels to begin to manifest their “education”.  Ten years is the maximum barrel ageing permitted in the Rioja Alta region, and anything more than six years is unusual unless the wines are destined to become Gran Reservas.

R. López de Heredia

Where in the World is Viña Tondonia?

R. López de Heredia is in Haro, Rioja Alta. At the very end of the film below the exact positioning of the Tondonia and Bosconia vineyards are shown. Rioja and it’s three current subzones Alta, Alavesa and Baja achieve no meaningful distinction between vineyards and wines.

Baja translates to Low and is being replaced with Oriental given the negative quality conation of the word.

There is a growing push to better recognise quality terroir by define the:

  1. Quality soils in Rioja at a macro level, equivalent to Appellation Bourgogne in Burgundy;
  2. The individual villages or Pueblo of Rioja equivalent to a village in Burgundy like Gevrey-Chambertin or Chassagne-Montrachet; and
  3. The special places (like lieu dit in Burgundy) & individual vineyards within the villages.

Only time will tell how this unfolds. In the meantime we’ll be including information on all of the wines we list from Rioja.

The area is vast with over 60,000Ha of vines planted. As Scott Wasley puts it, it’s the equivalent of using South East Australia to classify the wines NSW, Victora, SA and Tasmania. In the flyover below at the 20sec mark you’ll see a high level geological map of general soil types, it’s clear they run perpendicular to the general sub-region orientation along a number of rivers, valleys and sub-plains. The fact that I’ve mentioned both the split in soil types, and, significant geological changes if enough for any vigneron worth their salt to call for a more detailed differentiation between key viticultural areas of Rioja. Politics, corruption and a bias toward bland mass-produced wines the adversaries of progress on mapping the region. Without more appropriate classification of vineyards we have to rely on the reputation of quality producer and their track record in the glass. Perhaps not a bad thing for an individual wine. Not great for the reputation of a region as a whole.

Although not an official classification the map below would be a start to delineating between different areas of Rioja based on the Valleys within it. You can clearly see the rivers running through each of the valleys.

Click to enlarge🔎

General in nature the soil map below offers some guidance on the geology of Rioja.

Click to enlarge🔎
94 Points

The 2011 Viña Tondonia Reserva is darker and shows riper fruit, a rounder palate and some dusty tannins. A year of ripeness, concentration and tannin, the wine is powerful with the finesse of Tondonia. Tasting this next to the textbook 2010 Tondonia revealed how this has more muscle and a wider back and the 2010 epitomizes the finesse and elegance. 270,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in May 2019. Drink 2022-2029

Luis Gutiérrez, The Wine Advocate

Where in the world does the magic happen?

R. López de Heredia - Viña Tondonia, Avenida Vizcaya, Haro, Spain

La Rioja