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Average critic rating : 95.0 points
The 2010 Pintia had already been bottled when I tasted it, although not released. The bouquet is very Bordeaux-like with black rather than red fruit, fine minerality and touches of graphite and cedar. The palate is medium-bodied with plump, rounded tannins, a firm structure and great precision on the finish. This is what you might call a “classic” Pintia that already demonstrates great breeding and sophistication toward the finish.||I made a brief but profitable visit to Bodegas Pintia with Pablo Alvarez and winemaker Xavier Ausas. He told me that they started to buy vineyards in 1997 without a clear idea of what style of Toro wine they would make. “We heard that Toro was a very good region,” he told me, “a region of perhaps rustic wines. We wanted to produce a different style of Tempranillo. We wanted to make a more elegant wine. In Toro the Tempranillo is wilder and rustic while in Ribera del Duero it is more elegant. The Tempranillo is more like a bull in Toro. If you don’t control it, you make wines that are over-ripe.” They ended up acquiring 100 hectares of vineyard, 50% of purchased vineyard and the remainder subsequently planted over ten years. “We like short names for the wines as they are easier to remember,” Pablo answered when I asked where the name originates. I then inquired about the vinification: “During the entire process, it is necessary to keep the fresh fruit aromas, which is the reason we have cool rooms before fermentation. The maximum degree of temperature during fermentation is 28 degrees to protect the aromas instead of 31-33 degrees in Ribera del Duero. After fermentation, we put the wine immediately in new oak barrel without maceration. We use 70% French and 30% American oak and the new oak protects the fresh fruit aroma. We make the malolactic (fermentation) in barrel and after 12 months we mix the lots, and any that are unsatisfactory are distilled. We don’t mature more than 12 months in barrel since the fresh fruit aromas come down and appear as a liqueur (volatile) aroma.” Wine Advocate.April, 2013
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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