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Contents of the collection

Visitors to the bodega will be exposed to a unique style of wine world understanding that is primarily reflected in our wines. Experts and specialist magazines talk about Viña Tondonia as being a classic Rioja. This quality is the result of the bodega’s history and of its unique way of understanding the product in its entirety, while on the other hand itself forming part of that entity. On this point, we are not sure if our wine is a result of a style, or the result of circumstances put in place by the founder of the bodega. By way of exploring this argument, we have initiated a cultural project that values tradition, techniques, materials and the documentation that has been involved with this product’s success. All of this is the result of the effort of four generations of wine producers, united in their company through family. For this reason we say that the contents of this collection are the company, the family, the bodega and the vineyard all together.

Using ethnographical terminology we can say that this heritage is a reflection, the crystallisation of “a story of life”; and it is for this reason that we have so many different types of material in this broad collection that we are just beginning to understand.

In order to develop this project we have had to establish a mid-term methodology that would allow us to present the collection for public enjoyment. The working stages are as follows: Location, Investigation, Restoration and Exhibition.

These stages are not chronologically consecutive, but are intertwined, taking into account the entirety of the collection. For studying and classification purposes we have divided them into:

I. Documental heritage.

In this group we have included written material, prints, diagrams and audiovisual material that tell us about the people, the bodega, the family, and everything related to the history of this institution. You will be able to find very diverse material, from manuscripts, accounting documents and photographic plaques, to labels, letter copiers, and personal correspondence.

And of course one cannot ignore the large collection of printed material, such as magazines and books, some of which are specialized in wine-making.

The manuscripts date from 1871 when the founder left his family home in Chile, and include a significant collection of letters written during the Carlista War and his residence in exile.

Do not forget that, due to our founder’s participation in the Carlista war until 1876, we possess a great deal of documentation and graphic material related to this period.

The unique location of the winery, in the Barrio de la Estación in Haro, just a few metres from the old post office and the train station, and the fact that the company had its head office in Madrid, has allowed us to preserve a significant amount of correspondence that was sent to workers, wine manufacturers, foremen and the manager of the central office. Through this collection of letters, we can glean a lot about the life and activity of the bodega from the late 19th century.

Thanks to this documentation, which is currently being catalogued, new interpretations will help us to better understand certain “unclear” areas in the history of vines and wine in La Rioja - for example, the case of phylloxera, the mechanisation of vineyards, social conflict or exportation - topics which are well detailed in our archives.

While the commercial archive provides us with a great deal of information, what concerns us most are those items of ethnographic interest and those appropriate for museum display. For example, many small mining wagons which were used in 1890 to build the bodega and the underground cellars, are being restored. These wagons were used to extract stone and soil from a 200 metre underground tunnel. The commercial archive contains product information leaflets for these wagons, correspondence between the Spanish representative and the German manufacturers, and invoices. There is a great deal more information written in 1885 related to a multitude of items that in the future will have great didactic value.

To round off this written and printed documentation we have been fortunate to benefit from Don Rafael Lopez de Heredia Aransaez’s hobby of photography. Don Rafael, the son of the founder, studied in France, England and Germany at the beginning of the 20th century, where he learnt the most up-to-date photographic techniques.

Thanks to this we have thousands of negatives on glass, acetate and other materials, as well as stereoscopic photography from the late 19th century.  With only a brief viewing of these photographs, you willl be able to appreciate the wide range of themes covered, including agriculture, architecture, family, travelling, technical information, vehicles, and also many photographs from the Civil War that started in 1936, especially those related to aviation.

Although the photographic equipment is part of the next chapter we shouldn’t forget about these important tools needed during the pioneering years of photography.

Some material has been restored for exhibition in the bodega itself or in trade fairs and exhibitions. The rest will be restored in the near future. In the mean time the remaining articles are being catalogued along with the rest of the collection.

II. Material heritage

Interestingly enough, the mining wagons mentioned earlier, and which appear in photographs from the end of the 19th century, are still housed in our storage rooms. But this is just one example. From the birth of this company, innumerable objects have been used and, once they have served their purpose, carefully stored in many of the different storage spaces in the bodega. This spirit of “conserving” obliged later generations, out of respect, to maintain those tools that enabled them to plough the fields, build the stone walls, make wine, or any of the numerous tasks that a centenarian company, which in some periods employed more than 150 workers, has needed.

We should also mention tools of historical interest that are still in use - either because in other companies they are no longer used, or they have been replaced by modern tools. For example, our cooperage equipment - we are the only bodega in La Rioja that still makes all their barrels with almost-forgotten techniques and equipment. The same can be said about lees racking equipment, wooden containers of various shapes and sizes – such as those used for harvesting, and other tools that are almost 100 years old but are still in use.

Within this category of our material heritage, we can refer to objects that are still in use and those that have been withdrawn from use, and describe each of their features.

A tour through the warehouses where agricultural implements are stored, both animal- and manually-operated, from the ancient winch used to bend the oak staves for a barrel, to present-day tractors that need to rest after intensive use, serves as a review of the labour performed in our vineyards over the last century.

Any ethnographer who is dedicated to museum displays would enjoy touring through the shelves full of century-old objects, stored, as one of the family members once said, “in case they are useful one day or so the youth can learn what was used long ago” – a prime example being rockets which were used in an attempt to destroy storm clouds and therefore prevent hailstorms.
Another important aspect of the “materials heritage” are the vehicles belonging to the bodega over the years - from an Exshaw lorry to a racing Bugatti; a recently restored Ford van used for delivering wine around Madrid in 1920, and many others that are being kept for repair or even use - for example the old Ford, which is still used for promotion during fiestas in the area’s towns and villages.

Besides the pieces related to labour and commerce, we also possess numerous articles owned by the families that founded and participated in the bodega. For four generations, thousands of domestic items have been used in the household and the social and work areas of the building.
Undoubtedly, the people who preserved items from the past intended them to be displayed in museum-form in the future, since they knew they would be able to help illustrate the bodega’s history – and this is another of the project’s intentions.

With regard to this, for example, is the value placed on the visual arts, particularly evident in the recent restoration of an Antonio Prast painting of Viña Tondonia, completed in 1924 by this artist and photographer.

In much the same way, the acid-etched stained glass that seals the bodega’s modernist gallery (built in 1903) is being restored. Mention should also be made of the bodega’s architecture, dating back to 1870, which, due to its originality, assumes an emblematic role in the wines of la Rioja.

Yet another task that we are currently working on and intend to publish in the future, is everything related to the bodega’s participation in the Brussels Universal Exhibition of 1910. We still have the original stand that was used in the Spanish pavilion, together with written documentation, correspondence between the craftsmen, assembly plans, invoices from Belgian and Spanish suppliers, diplomas and prizes awarded, photographs, and further exhaustive information that is proving to be of great use.

At the same time the specialized wood restorer Blanca Ameztoy has completed the original shop from the Brussels Exhibition to be used and to decorate the inside of a magnificent boutique designed by the architect Zaha Hadid.

There is also a section that must be described in relation to the entire heritage, the “non-material heritage” – what could be called oral history. By this we mean interviews carried out with older members of the family in order to fill in the gaps in facts and information that already appeared in documents. For example, interviews carried out with Don Pedro Lopez de Heredia Ugalde, the founder’s grandson (born in 1928), who remembers a lot of the bodega’s history.  This “oral history” has helped us to fill in many gaps and areas not clearly defined in the documentation we possess.  At the same time, certain documents sometimes modify the wrong conclusions reached through interviews. Thanks to documents, photographs, plans etc, mistakes are put right and they help the 137-year-old historical puzzle to fall into place.

As part of this process, we are currently conducting interviews with elders, relatives residing in other countries such as Chile or Mexico, veteran workers of the bodega and also local personalities familiar with the recent history of the town and its bodegas.

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