López de Heredia? YMMV but isn’t that what it’s all about?

Lopez de HerediaWhen cousin Jonathan and I landed at Vera in Chicago on Tuesday night, I had swore to myself that we wouldn’t drink López de Heredia. After all, there are so many great lots on this iconic Spanish list and López de Heredia is a wine that I’ve been following and have known well for many years now. Why not expand my knowledge of Spanish wines at one of the best venues in the U.S. to do so?

But when our server revealed the pricing, it was just too tempting to resist.

The 2001 Viña Tondonia Reserva (above) rewarded us with one of the best bottles of López de Heredia that I have ever enjoyed — if not the best.

The fruit in this fifteen-year-old bottling delivered zinging white and stone fruit flavors. But the thing that really blew me away was that the fruit aromas were so nimble that they gently eclipsed the oxidative character of the wine.

Man, what a wine!

pork skewer recipeWhen our server shared the excellent price of the 2000 Rosado (which is not on the list; you have to ask for it), how could we say no at that point?

Here the fruit was equally vibrant (juicy ripe red) but there was a note of funk on the nose that simply refused to go away as the wine aerated in our glasses and the open bottle.

I was reminded of something that Giuseppe Rinaldi (the great natural winemaker and advocate and producer of some of the world’s great wines) said this year at the Vini Veri fair in April.

“Industrial wine, if you can call it wine,” he told a group gathered for a vertical tasting of Barbacarlo, “needs to be perfect. It needs to be precise, exactly the same every time. A natural wine, by definition, will have imperfections.”

As Jonathan and I thoroughly enjoyed every last drop of our “imperfect” wine, I couldn’t help but think of how “perfect” our experience.

With the first bottle, it felt like it had been opened for us at exactly the right moment in its evolution. With the second, as much as we loved it, we were reminded of nature’s “imperfection.”

And isn’t that what is so thrilling about natural wine? To me it’s the knowledge that you are consuming a living wine with all the joys and disappointments that life brings with it. I love those wines the way I love my wife and my family and my closest friends — warts and all.

To live in a world filled only by perfection would be no life at all.

It was a great night at Vera and it was also lovely to meet the new wine director there, Christy Fuhrman. I’ll be curious to see the direction where she will take this iconic list the next time I visit.

Huge thanks to Christy and the staff at Vera and to López de Heredia for an unforgettable evening and dinner.

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