López is sick. Like yours now my face may have shown a compassionately confused expression when I heard the sad news about poor López. My counterpart at least was very quick to assure me there was no reason to worry as López was not unwell at all, quiet the opposite. "López is sick.", it turns out, happens to be American for: "López make excellent wines." Now you may think the American wine writer I talked to was a little confused about language, but I can assure you she is not confused about one thing - López is indeed, er, sick.
And as this cool-climate loving, acid-hounding Riesling fan can fall in love with mature white Rioja, maybe you can too?
In fact, it was not just myself: the Munich branch of the Wine Rambler, not usually active pursuer of Spanish wines, also jumped on the sick bandwagon when I brought along a bottle of López, hoping this would be something unusual and enjoyable for our committee meeting. López is indeed an unusual winemaking family, going back to Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta, the first, er, sick López. They have a reputation for a traditional approach to winemaking; for instance, they were one of the few in Rioja to resist the influx of French oak barrels. Not only are the López practising a traditional way of winegrowing and -making, they also insist to only sell their wines when they are ready for drinking - it is not unusual for them to wait a decade or even longer. So it is no problem to get a bottle like this 2000 from a wine merchant today, in fact even older wines are easily available.
The 2000 certainly had a mature air to it, but don't mistake that to say it smelled old or worn out, quite the opposite. The bouquet is spicy with a touch of frankincense, cloves and nuts, but it also features yellow fruit, (Thai curry with) coconut and blood orange. Mature, yes, but layers of excitement. A member of the Munich branch also called the bouquet "happily earthy". Not only does the López smell good, it also drinks very well, especially over dinner. It has the kind of structure, texture and depth that makes you want to create dishes extra for it, and the surprising acidity gives it a lively streak that is very welcome too. I really enjoyed the almost smoky flavour and herbal finish.
While it drinks well the López is not for white wine newbies looking for a quick fix of fruit, but rather an experience for those happy to slow down a bit to engage with a wine - and enjoy. Sick? Sick!