Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tondonia Reserva '99 and Bosconia Reserva '00

Both of these wines are light, dilute feeble wines from the most noble of Spanish wine regions, Rioja. Drinkable, but not exciting. And what awful, limpid color! 81 pts for the Tondonia, 83 pts for the Bosconia.

I joke, I joke...so I tasted both of these side by side today and would like to share the experience. Later in the week I will post what will probably be a rather long entry on Lopez de Heredia and a recent visit there, but for now I thought I'd provide a couple of brief tasting notes and something of a teaser for the future LdH post.

Lopez de Heredia makes three reserva level wines: one white, Viña Tondonia Blanco (composed of Viura and Malvasia from the Tondonia vineyard, current release: 1989), Viña Tondonia and Viña Bosconia. Other than vineyard site, the main difference between these two wines is that the former typically has 75% tempranillo, the latter 80%. Aesthetically speaking, the Tondonia is bottled in a bordeaux bottle while Bosconia is in a Burgundy shaped one. Which, judging by my growing yet still relatively limited drinking experience with LdH, is a suggestion that carries over to the actual taste of these wines.

The 2000 Viña Bosconia Reserva has 80% tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 3% Graciano and 2% Mazuelo (carignane). It shows intense, spicy cherry and strawberry aromas. Amazingly bright and high-toned red fruits on the palate, with a combination of tense, yet rich fruit flavors framed by a suggestion of lightly toasted bread. While 'the 99 Bosconia Reserva was delicious, there seems to be a bit more intensity and flavor lingering underneath the surface of this 2000. Probably won't be at its best for another few years, and should improve for at least 4-5 years beyond that.

As for the 1999 Viña Tondonia Reserva (75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 5% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo), it seems to be an especially subtle, but classy, bottle. While the requisite darker fruit is present on the nose, the palate is quite a bit less rich than usual. Tangy cherries, cinnamon stick, plum skins and blood oranges represent some of the flavor elements here, with some cocoa powder as well. If Bosconia is typically 'Burgundian,' than I would compare Tondonia to lighter, higher acid clarets or even aged Chinon (of course these wines are original statements all their own and defy comparison; I mention it here just as a frame of reference). One fellow taster noted mushroom aromas, another a sort of old school, mature Napa cab aspect to the palate. While it's tasty now, I probably wouldn't forget about this bottle in a cellar for over 5 years, though who knows? When wine has been slowly aged in older oak and thus exposed to air for as long as this one has, sometimes it can surprise with its ability to hang on to its freshness in the bottle.

While these wines are not inexpensive, nor are they always easily appreciated by the uninitiated (though I've certainly observed some wine newbies enthusiastically enjoy them), I still wholeheartedly maintain that they are amongst the most interesting, food-friendly, and highest quality $35-$45 wines available.