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A Wine That's Two Decades Young

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja White Reserva 1990
Harvey Steiman
Posted: December 22, 2010

How rare is it to drink a 20-year-old table wine that still has freshness and vitality, makes a delicious drink to sip by itself or accompany food, and costs less than $100 on a wine list? Especially for a white wine? That's currently available?

We were looking for something pleasant to sip with a table full of tapas, so the sommelier brought out a bottle of R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja White Reserva 1990. With its wire cage and old-fashioned script, the bottle brought back memories for me of drinking inexpensive Spanish whites, often seven or eight years old, at Cuban restaurants when I lived in Miami. Those wines were usually tired and oxidized, but they tasted OK with the masas de puerco.

But this time we were at Jaleo, José Andrés' showcase restaurant at the brand-new Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas. The food had more elegance than the memories the wine evoked, and so did this wine. It felt fresh. It tingled with bright acidity against a silky texture, framing the perfumed pear flavors, with hints of herb tea and honey weaving through the long finish. If I had to guess, I would have put this at five years old, not 20. 90 points, non-blind. Not bad with the potato chip-like patatas bravas either. members: Read the original blind-tasting review for R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Rioja White Reserva 1990 (93, $49, Top 100 of 2009: Ranked No. 90).

• Plus, get scores and tasting notes for more recently rated Spanish whites.

Member comments   3 comment(s)

Chris A Elerick — Orlando, FL —  December 22, 2010 8:08am ET

harvey- i'm putting together a mixed case of 1981 wines to be enjoyed one per month in 2011 in a year-long celebration of me turning 30. the r lopez de heredia vina tondonia rioja white is one of the wines. i hope it shows some semblance of the vitality your 1990 showed.

as an aside, i have never had much of a desire to visit las vegas. however, after reading your many articles on the amazing foodie culture out there, my opinion is changing. keep up the great work!

Ronnie Sanders — Philly —  December 22, 2010 8:15am ET

I had the pleasure of going to the winery only a month ago and was treated to some incredible bottles over lunch, including a 54 Tondonia Gran Riserva Red that was mind blowing and a 70 Tondonia Gran Riserva White that was still almost too young to drink. We spent the entire day there and if it was not for the fact that we had to get to Barcelona for a dinner reservation, we would have been there all night as well. They are great people aside from making some of the most interesting wines in the world. I've been to hundreds of wineries in my life and I have never seen anything quite like R. Lopez, with one exception and that is Seppets in the Barossa.

Thomas Matthews — New York City —  December 22, 2010 1:40pm ET

Lopez y Heredia is the poster child for those who cherish the traditional style in Rioja, and it surely makes a compelling case that this approach -- long-aging in neutral oak casks -- can deliver extraordinary wines. If only more bodegas had similar success rates with this style.

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