Friday, April 10, 2009

Wine of the Week - 1998 Lopez de Heredia Rosé

1998 López de Heredia Rioja Rosado Viña Tondonia Gran Riserva, $27, Polaner Selections. Spring is in the air and there's no denying it - even the sourest New Yorker is ready to smile. Recession? Depression? Fugedaboudit. Magnolias are blooming and my 3 month old daughter seems to have inherited my green eyes.

BrooklynLady and I began what is now our tradition, to open a bottle of this beautiful old ros
é from Rioja at the beginning of the springtime. This is no ordinary rosé, by the way. This wine, like all of López de Heredia's Gran Riservas, is aged in oak and is released only when Maria and the other members of the López de Heredia clan feel that it is ready to drink. It is made only in better vintages, and it brings with it the ancient marine mineral bed that is the Tondonia vineyard. You can drink all sorts of Rioja, and then drink López de Heredia, and it's as though you're in outer space, it's so different from everything else. Not overly extracted or concentrated, not vanilla oak flavored, not masked by anything at all, these are some of the last wines that truly speak of the place that is Rioja.

The blend is the same every time this wine is made - it is mostly Grenache at 60%, and the balance is Viura (20%), and Tempranillo (20%). The 1998 is more tropical on the nose than the '97 or the '95, with prominent aromas of coconut and tangerine. It is an airy and fresh nose, although the wine is oxidized to the point that it also shows distinct sherry-like notes. A strange and lovely contradiction. With a bit of air, a level of minerals emerges, as if you've been sinking slowly in seawater and suddenly come to rest on a bed of old coral. On the palate this shows far greater structure than I expected, as the wine is so spread out on the nose. The acidity is vibrant and the wine is perfectly balanced. The flavors are bold and clean, and quite complex, with fresh oranges and even a hint of pineapple, infused throughout with minerals, and with a sherry-like buzz underneath. This is just delicious wine, one of the most rewarding
rosés available.

I'm not sure of the classic pairings for this wine. Jamón Ibérico? Grilled shrimp with garlic and butter? The '97 was more of a crab and shrimp wine (and I prefer it to the '98, but that's about style, not quality), whereas this wine, the '98 is more tropical. We loved it with our Sephardic roast chicken, rubbed with pimenton, cinnamon, and allspice, and stuffed with pistachios, apricots, almonds, orange rind, and sherry. Maybe it just doesn't matter. With wine this good, the food just falls into step.

If you're curious (or masochistic, perhaps), here are the posts on our previous experiences with
López de Heredia rosé: the 1997 last May, and the 1995 in spring two years ago.


ned said...

Too bad their isn't more mature rosé around. As this demonstrates, it can age beautifully. I've had some spellbinding examples of pinot noir rosé from F. Cotat
and J Roty.

Christy said...

I just love this wine - and I never tire in reading about because it always seems to evoke the loveliest descriptions. Like your comment that it shows a "strange and lovely contradiction." At the store, I finally put a "warning" label on it because people would return it, thinking it was off due to the sherry notes. I would happily exchange it for something a little more expected and drink the LdH myself. Still have a few bottles of the 1997, which I think I'll be sneaking home tomorrow.


Zachary Sussman said...

Long-time reader, first-time poster. At your recommendation, I picked this up at Chambers recently, and had it with a beautiful seafood stew of lobster, shrimp, scallops and mussels, seasoned with lemon, garlic and saffron. Couldn't have been a more lovely pairing.

Brooklynguy said...

hey ned - this wine as the exception, we have to age our own. i love the others you mention, and i think that bandol roses age well too.

christy - those silly people, good for you for helping them to see the light. 97=yum.

zach - thanks for dipping your toe in the commenting pool. yours sounds like an inspired pairing.

Todd said...

Hey, from one Brooklyn Guy to another - enjoyed this post - and your vivid analogies!

You've made my "great moments in wine criticism" twitter feed with the line about coming to rest on a bed of old coral. Good work.

I've seen this bottle around but never tried it. I will now.

George said...

Just to follow up on your comment that you weren't sure what the traditional food pairing would be - Maria Jose (Lopez de Heredia) once told me that the wine was created by her (great?) grandfather as a complement to the local Basque cuisine, recommending it as a pairing with spicy foods.

Also - although being ten years old, I take issue with referring to it as "old" - '98, is, after all, the current release! Some markets, in fact, have not yet even seen the release of the '98, and are still dealing with '97.

It's still a vibrant, fresh wine.