If you haven't tried a R. López de Heredia wine, do so.
It's the benchmark for old-style Rioja. The winery only releases their wines when they think they're ready to drink so they typically don't hit the market until ten years after the vintage. Just three years ago, they finally released their 1981 Bosconia red. It's what they do.
Their reds are easily in the top three of our favorite wines and the whites aren't too far behind.
About a year ago, we got our hands on three of their '78 Heredia Bosconias at a ridiculously cheap price and I can still remember every sip. All dried cherry, liquid mushroom and dust that dramatically changed every 15 minutes. Great stuff.
Their whites are made from the Viura grape (Macabeo by another name) and are all honey and nuts with the fruit playing second fiddle (dried pear, dried apple?). Dry with medium to low acidity. Kinda like sherry. Reminiscent of a Savennières in a lot of ways in that both are unlike any other white wine you've ever had. They're both wonderfully perplexing in a pretty great way.
Food: Wine Can Chicken with Saffron Risotto
Our third wine can chicken in three weeks because it's delicious. Honey and Rosemary jam glaze served on mâche with saffron risotto.
The glaze was more subtle this time, which was probably a good thing with the wine. Best of the three WCCs so far.
Saffron risotto was an ideal match with the wine.
Wine: 1996 Robert López de Heredia Viña Gravonia - $23 Wine Discount Center
It's cheap, delicious and, if you haven't had it, unlike anything you've ever had.
Like I said, Heredia is what old-style Rioja is all about. As Spain gravitated toward bigger wines with more extracted fruit to satisfy the world market, Heredia held firm to its roots. They've been making the same style wine since its inception and the Spanish wine world is just now starting to come back to the Heredia style. Or at least to the point of understanding and respecting the virtues of it.
Eric Asimov of the New York Times Pour Blog can tell the story better than I can.
The single vineyards:
Tondonia - predominantly red - in the Burgundy style, softer, lighter - some white in a tiny corner
Bosconia - red - tend to be a bit bigger, more fruit forward
The bottle shape was a mixup at the winery years ago, according to Asimov. They wanted Tondonia in Burgundy bottles and Bosconia in Bordeaux, someone screwed it up and they just stuck with it.
Gravonia - vineyard, white wine
Crianza - a wine that has spent one year in oak barrels
Reserva - a wine that has been aged for two years, one of which has to be in oak
Gran Reserva - a wine aged two years in oak and three years in the bottle
Pairing: Always good with Spanish-style white meat, spectacular with anything saffron
For the first time, it took a bit for the dust to blow off on this wine. Five minutes maybe. After it did, all the honey and nuts came through. Fruit was a little more dried than the last time we had this. As with most good Spanish wine, it pairs perfectly with any food Spanish-influenced.
The saffron risotto pairing was perfect, just sublime. The chicken was right behind it. Mrs. Ney found an explosive mulchy note that kicked up with the oil-cured black olives spread over the top and in the risotto.
It seems that, quite possibly, the '96 might be winding down. Something almost tobacco-y about it. Seemed to lose some of the structure it previously had and it was a tad hollow on its own. Still worth every minute and the changes were barely perceptible but it seemed to be closing up to me. Better than 95% of the white wine out there, though, in my world.
1999s are still out there at the same cheap price.