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Average critic rating : 97.0 points
The 1995 Unico is a worthy successor to the profound 1994 (awarded a score of 98+ in Issue #159). Opaque purple in color, it has aromatic complexity which nearly defies words. There are notes of earth, licorice, hard wood charcoal, and black currants. Full-bodied, and powerful, the wine has beautiful balance with a multi-dimensional character and the structure to last for 25-40 years. The 1960 and the 1965, drunk within the last several months, appear to have many more years ahead. Wine Advocate.February, 2007
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, culminating in the incumbent Xavier Ausás, whose goal is to make wines with “persistent aromas” and “femininity rather than masculine tannins”.
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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