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Average critic rating : 94.0 points
The 2011 Alion is pure Tempranillo from vineyards averaging 25 to 30 years of age, harvested early (second half of September) matured for 16 months in new Nevers barrels (that’s a difference with Vega Sicilia; for Alion all wood is French). It is an exuberant, ripe Alion, with hedonist’s aromas that jump out of the glass. Winemaker Javier Ausas tells me he likes the wines when they are young and showy like this one. It is indeed a showy vintage, with aromas of violets, molasses, cereals and a whiff of malt whisky. We tasted the wine a little warm, but that does not benefit the wine, which should be served at 15-16 C and allowed to warm up and open up in the glass. It’s also quite smoky, with reminiscences of very good barrels, black aromas, violets, black olives and fresh plums. The palate is tannic with lactic and warm flavors. This is a very exuberant, showy vintage for Alion, and here I tend to agree with Ausas: even though this has plenty of stuffing to age I’d drink it young in its exuberant phase. 290,000 bottles produced. Drink now-2019. ||The big news here is that the 2010 Alion will not be released because there was a problem with the fining leaving suspended sediment that was floating in the wine, which made it cloudy. They decided not to release it. That means more than 300,000 bottles of wine will be destroyed, a hard decision to make, but as they are committed to offer only the very best quality to their customers, they decided to release 2011 earlier than normal and skip 2010 altogether. That’s a brave decision, which implies a substantial cost to the winery to preserve the quality of the wines. I also tasted the 2009, which I had not tasted before. Wine Advocate.August, 2014
Vega Sicilia: The Importance
Located in Ribera del Duero, not far from Valladolid, Bodegas Vega Sicilia is described by Robert Parker as: “the most prestigious wine estate in Spain”. Hugh Johnson famously paralleled Spain and Bordeaux, comparing Marqués de Riscal and Marqués de Murrieta to Lafite-Rothschild and Mouton-Rothschild, and saying that “Vega Sicilia is the Latour”. Michael Broadbent MW made a similar comparison, calling it “the Lafite of Spain”, Jancis Robinson has spoken of a “Pomerolisation” of Vega Sicilia, and the estate uses Bordeaux varietals. As a result many refer to it as Spain’s First Growth.
Neal Martin describes Vega Sicilia as the country’s: “one Koh-i-noor diamond that has represented the apogée of Spanish wine for over a century.” But he does not wholly buy-into the comparison with Bordeaux, saying: “Whilst clarets grow old like Conservative members of parliament…”, Vega Sicilia’s wines “…age like the Rolling Stones. Their mercurial nature adds to their charm and I sincerely hope that they adhere to the idiosyncratic method of production that imbues this wine with so much character and ‘fun’.” His colleagues at Wine Advocate agree that “Vega Sicilia remains a benchmark for the world’s great red wines.”
Vega Sicilia boasts a myriad of old vines, some in excess of 100 years old. The result is extremely low yields and wines of an almost unparalleled concentration.
Vega Sicilia: The Insight
The winery produces three cuvées. The flagship is Unico, a perennially high-scoring blend of Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon, which is aged for almost ten years, around six in oak and three in bottle. Robert Parker awarded the 1962 vintage a perfect 100 points saying: “undoubtedly, this must be one of the greatest Spanish wines to have graced this planet.” And Neal Martin says simply: “Unico brings a smile to your face.”
However, some might argue that the jewel in the crown is Unico Reserva Especial, a multi-vintage blend, combining wines from only the finest harvests. The winery says that this is “the wine with the greatest personality”, as it takes the complexity of Unico, and compounds it through using several vintages. Wine Advocate has said: “The Reserva Especials are blended to a house style designed to reflect Vega Sicilia at its very best.” They go on to say that “The vagaries of vintage are blended away leaving a wine that is, in my opinion, better than any of the single vintage wines with the possible exception of the 1942.”
Valbuena 5° (or Valbuena No. 5) comes from the younger vines and years when Unico is not produced, it therefore offers an affordable entry to this illustrious estate. The five denotes that it has been aged for five years before release.
Vega Sicilia: The Background
Vega Sicilia was founded by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, a winemaker who learned his art in Bordeaux and brought back many of the grape varieties with him to the region. The winery takes is name from the ‘green’ and bucolic surroundings and a reference to Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. A string of illustrious winemakers has filtered through Vega Sicilia. Xavier Ausás, who left in 2015, aimed to make wines with “persistent aromas” and “femininity rather than masculine tannins”. The new Technical Director is Gonzalo Iturriaga, who is keen that "a grape's personality should always be reflected in all the wines he creates."
The Alvarez family bought Vega Sicilia from a Venezuelan businessman in 1982 just as Ribera del Duero received its Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status. They also own neighbouring Bodegas Alión, where they produce Alión - a modern-style and upfront Tempranillo aged in French oak. An additional arm of the family business produces Pintia, a wine that tames the hot summers of Toro, to deliver a Tempranillo with remarkable restraint and finesse for such a warm region. Just after the fall of communism in Hungary, the Alvarez family reinvigorated Oremus, a Tokaji house between Mád and Sárospatak. The two great names of Vega Sicilia and Rothschild collaborate to produce Macán in Rioja Alta.
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