Haro, La Rioja, Spain ~ August 2011

There are few wineries in Spain whose name conjures the heritage and prestige evoked by Lopez de Heredia and it was in the Blondeau bodega of this renowned Haro wine maker that the Summertown Singers performed in summer 2011. Widely recognised as one of Spain’s “Grand Cru” vineyards, Hugh Johnson professes it to be his favourite Rioja bodega. “In the vat room below its jaunty brick tower, Moorish in parts, seaside gothic in others, you can see wine making with no evident alteration from a hundred years ago; oak-age technology, fragrant grey-brown vats, pulleys with iron chains.  In the rock cut cellars below lie fifteen thousand bordelesas used for ageing red and white wines for up to fifteen years.”

Award winning wine journalist John Stimpfig, writing recently for the FT, argues that amongst afficionados Lopez de Heredia’s wine has achieved cult status over the past couple of years, with savvy sommeliers competing to offer the biggest range and selection. “ In the US amongst Michelin starred restaurants, Lopez wines are firm fixtures.” The company manager, fourth generation family member, Maria Jose de Lopez de Heredia is in demand to put on tastings as far afield as S. America, Hong Kong, Singapore and  Japan.

On August 25th, the bodega hosted a charity concert squeezed amongst the fermentation vats, at which the Summertown Singers performed a programme of sacred and secular music. Works by Taverner, Victoria, Byrd and Palestrina were followed by a selection of songs featuring drinking, before closing with favourites by Parry, Elgar and Sullivan.

Clipping

Lopez de Heredia family members, guests from across Spain and singers were invited afterwards to enjoy a post-concert reception in the decorated courtyard. “Everybody was impressed by your singing: destiny put us together for a beautiful cause.” Pricewaterhouse Coopers have confirmed that 35,000 Euros has been handed over to the stroke charity, ARDACEA, a cause espoused by the family whose father is now in recovery. “ El compromiso adquirido por R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia de entregar el total de la recaudación del concierto ofrecido por la agrupación coral británica The Summertown Singers of Oxford, se ha visto cumplido con la entrega de 35.000 euros a la Asociacion Riojana de Daño Cerebral Adquirido (ARDACEA). El objetivo fundamental de esta asociación es el de mejorar la calidad de vida de la personas afectadas por la enfermedad, así como sus familias.”

Having recently taken over the reins from her father, Maria Jose generously found time to put on a wine tasting for us, before inviting us to lunch at the famed Restaurant Terete in the town, where we were treated to three of her fine wines with the fabulous meal. In between rehearsals we explored the region, tasted the wines of the Rioja Alta, discovered chickens in a cathedral, sang in the town’s square and worked our way round Haro’s legendary tapas bars.

We would like to acknowledge the wonderful hospitality of Maria Jose, supported by Jimmy, Pedro, Lidia, James and the staff of Lopez de Heredia, whose generosity of spirit is the abiding memory of this year’s trip.

Photos and other memorabilia from the trip...