Editor’s Note: As promised, here is the full interview with winemaker María José López de Heredia from R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia continued from K&L’s July newsletter...
Winemaker: María José López de Heredia from R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia
Number of years in business: 131 years
How would you describe your winemaking philosophy?
For us Tradition and Conviction are life-long attitudes. In our Bodega, the winemaking process is family know-how transmitted through the generations. It is present in our everyday work, rooted in the tradition and based on our deep conviction of the validity and modernity of our methods. We mention tradition, not as an idea meaning immobility, opposition to change, but as a dynamic and aesthetic concept in maintaining principles and criteria that remain eternal. However, we are perfectly aware of the rhythm of change. That’s why, our openness to change, flexibility, our non-conformism and self-criticism are the elements that allow us to face the future. The heritage from our ancestors is what makes our idiosyncracies into both positives qualities and attitudes. Our current and future promises can be encapsulated in two ideas that have always epitomized López de Heredia: - Professionality, as a quality of offering the consumer a distinctive product, of supreme quality, as artisan winemakers. - Ethic, promoting the happiness of all those who belong to our House; contributing to the enjoyment of our friends and customers; and giving to Society the best of our hopes and dreams.
What wines or winemakers helped influence your philosophy?
My father and my grandfather.The elegant wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux.
How involved in grape-growing are you? Is there a particular vineyard site that wows you year after year?
Very much. We all are as a family. We describe ourselves not as winemakers but as "vine-makers." Viña Tondonia amazes me every year because it makes me think how clever my great-grandfather was to find it. But he found all our vineyards: Viña Bosconia, Viña Cubillo and Viña Gravonia as well. All of them are very special terroirs.
How do you think your palate has evolved over the years? How do you think that’s influenced your wines?
As I have aged, my palate has evolved towards more elegant and sophisticated wines. I have always tried to make the style I like, of course.
What kinds of food do you like to pair your wines with?
Wine is always a complement to food. Our wines are, of course conditioned by their origin: Rioja and the style of food we cook in this area: Mediterranean, vegetables, meats...etc. That doesn't mean they cannot match any other food. They adapt well with food from many regions and countries.
What changes are planned for coming vintages? Any new (top secret) varietals, blends or propriety wines on the horizon?
In our House we are proud of not changing, since we are very faithful to our own style. Therefore no new varietals or different wines; our greatest endeavour is to improve our own style of winemaking.
Is there a style of wine that you think appeals to critics that might not represent your favorite style? How do you deal with it?
I like the idea of a wide range of wines throughout the world. I suggest that everyone should have their own opinion and not follow others opinions that much.
What do you think when you are not drinking your own wine?
I was taught to distinguish among objective, subjective and affective tasting. If I taste objectively I think of virtues or defects. When I drink subjectively I decide what I like and what I don't. When I taste affectively I think of enjoyment.
Do you collect wine? If so, what’s in your cellar?
Yes. Plenty of wines: Sherries, whites, rosés from all around the world. Not forgetting Champagne or Port. I have just bought some wines from Etienne de Montille in Burgundy. I exchange many wines with my wine friends from all over the world. I like to try everything. A friend told me today they are going to give me to taste the best Japanese wine being produced in that country.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges facing the wine industry today?
In Spain we have to pay attention to the lack of culture of wine consumption. Health issues. Personality in the wines is another challenge. For us, as artisan vine growers and winemakers finding people that have the know-how to work as we do it now will be a big challenge, sadly, very soon.