In wine, age is often a good thing, especially for red wines, which become more round and unified with time. Less well known is the fact that some whites are also made for longevity and realize their potential after years, even decades, of resting in cask and bottle.
This is true, for instance, of the chardonnays of Burgundy, which are bottled within a year or so of harvest but which can evolve, often beautifully, for years to come. Another top example of age and beauty is the wines of R. López de Heredia, the venerable and traditional producer in Spain’s Rioja region.
Whenever I taste López de Heredia’s wines — the whites and the reds — I am taken by their complexity and intensity, as I was again the other day. I had gone shopping at PJ Wine in New York, a cavernous store near Manhattan’s northern tip that specializes in the wines of Spain. Among many others, I came home with a bottle of López de Heredia’s Viña Gravonia white, which, at about $19, was just within the day’s budget plan to keep the wines under $20.
It was the newest Viña Gravonia release and you might be surprised to learn that it was the 1996 vintage. Yes, 1996. López de Heredia is almost unique among Rioja producers in adhering to the traditional (I’ve also seen it called “old-fashioned”) practice of lengthy aging of its wines, both the reds and the whites.
More from TODAY.com
Groom-less bride poses in sweet solo wedding photos
One bride decided to pursue her dream wedding photos, even though her husband was stationed abroad in the Air Force.
- ‘A hot meal can make people cry’: BBQ volunteers comfort Oklahoma victims
- Joe Francis: 'Retarded' jury should be 'shot dead'
- Joy amid tornado's destruction as owners find lost pets
- PTC angry after Ke$ha drinks pee on TV
- Groom-less bride poses in sweet solo wedding photos
Some insight into that philosophy comes from López de Heredia’s own description of the white wines. “To talk here of white as brief, young uncomplicated wines is asking for trouble,” it says on its Web site (www.lopezdeheredia.com). “This firm has never been averse to aging white wines in oak for as long as reds. The result is much more surprising than might be expected.”
It goes on to note that the oaky tastes and aromas that may appear “unbalanced” after such aging are refined by additional years spent in the bottle before release, which manages to “polish the rough edges of the wood and create seductive aromas.”
López de Heredia considers Viña Gravonia a mere youngster in that it is aged for only four years, two of them in oak barrels. And yet the wine, made entirely from the viura grape and light straw in color, is beautifully complex with aromas of cut flowers and butterscotch that are joined in the mouth by pear and lime, vanilla, honey and minerals. The wood, indeed, is subtle and seamlessly integrated.
This is a wine to swirl and sip, and not too cold, please, as that will tend to obscure the aromas and tastes. Food matches include fish, chicken and pork dishes, even hearty ones, as Viña Gravonia has the stuff to hold up to quite a lot of flavor.
By the way, PJ Wine has other López de Heredia wines dating back to the 1960s and the prices, as you might imagine, climb steadily the older they get. At $19 or so, the 1996 Viña Gravonia is a great introduction at a bargain price. And it reminded me that youth is sometimes not all it’s cracked up to be.
Edward Deitch is the recipient of the 2007 James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Best Multimedia Writing. He welcomes comments from readers. Write to him at email@example.com
© 2013 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints