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Average critic rating : 97.0 points



Moving on to the big guns, the 2004 Unico is truly spectacular, in line with the 1970 and 1994. It’s a blend of 87% Tempranillo and 13% Cabernet Sauvignon. Unico has a unique long aging, in the case of the 2004, 15 months in 20,000-liter vats, 25 month in new barrels, 17 months in used barrels and a further 26 months in the big oak vats. It has complex notes of tobacco, cedar wood and blackberries, and shows very good balance between power and elegance as well as perfect ripeness. It has a similar profile to the 1994, but there’s ten years difference in experience and technical knowledge. There is nuance; there is detail, filigree, balance, harmony and complexity. There is a fine texture. In short, it is a great, world-class wine, a superb vintage for Unico. 87,500 bottles, 2,229 magnums, 150 double magnums and 5 Imperials were filled with this extraordinary wine. This is approachable now, but it’s a shame to drink so soon. It will age for a very long time, as it has the balance and harmony to do so, and it will develop more complexity with time. Drink 2016-2029. But if the single harvest Unico is fantastic, the multi-vintage blend could be even better as it also plays with the benefit of extra aging time. ||I tasted the latest three vintages of Valbuena, to get up to speed with what’s in the market. If there’s a wine in their collection that has seen a huge improvement since 1998, it is Valbuena, which had been kind of neglected since the launch of Alion in the early 1990s. For Valbuena, they do not want a second wine in the Bordeaux style. But with the competitive Alion breathing down its neck and the pressure of its big brother, it felt a bit out of place. So they decided to look back at the vineyards: they studied the soils and saw why Unico and Valbuena had been (empirically) produced from separated plots. 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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