The Ribera del Duero is located in Spain’s northern plateau and is one of eleven Quality Wine regions within the autonomous community of Castile and Leon. It is of course also one of the most recognised and admired high quality fine wine producing regions to be found along the course of the Duero river. A largely flat, hot, dry rocky terrain that is centred around the town of Aranda de Duero, the region was upgraded from DOC to DOCa (denominacion de origen calificada) status in 2008 helped in large part by the global reputation and quality of the wines of Bodegas Vega Sicilia.
Undoubtedly considered the “first growth” of Spain and one of the most prestigious and respected wineries in Europe, this incredible producer located in the Ribera del Duero east of Valladolid, covers over 1000 hectares with around 230 under vine. Founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of local grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, and planted them together with Spain’s signature grape Tinto Fino, a local clone of Tempranillo.
The nearby Bodegas Alion estate is the final piece in the Vega Sicilia Ribera del Duero puzzle, producing superb high quality wines that can normally be enjoyed in their youth or aged for at least a decade or more. Completing the portfolio selection is their Pintia from D.O. Toro and finally the new(ish) Macan Rioja wines made under the Bodegas Benjamin de Rothschild Vega Sicilia joint venture.
Macan Clasico 2016, Rioja DOCa
The hallmark opulent exotic Macan nose is beautifully marked by sweet lavender, black berry fruits, creme de cassis and a plush brûléed veil of vanilla pod and buttered brown toast. The palate texture is fabulously pinpoint and polished with very fine grained stony tannins offset against a fairly classical, medium bodied weight of fruit. Plenty of succulence and appeal.
(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Macan 2015, Rioja DOCa
The Macan big brother shows a noticeably darker tone of berry fruits with lifted notes of black cherry, blue berry and raisined damson plums that combine synergistically with nuances of grey slate, graphite and molasses. Sleek and lush on the entry, the palate is held tightly in check by a fine, noble framing acidity that lends tension and a feel of linearity to the texture. Tannins are very fine, powdery and grippy but we’ll balanced with the intense, saline black berry fruits. A really classy edition that needs nothing more than a few more years in the cellar before drinking.
(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Bodegas Vega Sicilia Pintia 2015, DO Toro
A wine that grows in stature every successive vintage release. This great Spanish vintage offers up a deep, ripe, broody melange of molasses, raisined black plum, black currant reduction and smokey graphite spice. The palate is plump and glycerol with fruit opulence that is slightly clipped in its youth but which shows fine developmental promise with its crystalline acids and super sleek slatey mineral tannins. A lovely expression.
(Wine Safari Score: 92+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Bodegas Alion 2016, DOCa Ribera del Duero
This Alion has a fabulously dark fruited exotic nose with plenty of alluring blue and purple berry fruits, Parma violets and pink rock candy. The wonderful aromatic purity and precision continues on to a super lithe, supple, elegantly textured palate braced with fresh cool acids and tart black berry and black cherry intensity. The oak is impressively integrated already and the palate fruit weighted in the favour of finesse and creamy elegance. A really regal expression of Alion and possibly one of my favourite vintages in several years.
(Wine Safari Score: 95+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Bodegas Vega Sicilia Valbuena No.5 2015, DOCa Ribera del Duero
Initially the aromatics on this Valbuena are tight, classical and ever so slightly broody with subtle notes of brown toast, vanilla pod, molasses and a caramelised plum note. The palate is bold and sleek, finely textured and notably elegant and fine boned. There is also plenty of ripe black fruit, cassis reduction, caramelised nuts and Christmas pudding exoticism. The sleek mid weight concentration and polished, sweet tannins point to possibly a slightly earlier drinking version but certainly no rush to open as usual.
(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva 2010, DOCa Ribera del Duero
Another finely layered, rich expressive Unico that is just starting to blossom after almost a decade. The nose is deep, dark fruited and earthy with sweet tannery leather, Christmas pudding, molasses and milk chocolate coated raisin nuances. Plummy, sweet fruited and wonderfully complex, this has the acid frame, glycerol concentration and baked black fruit intensity and power for the long haul. A very classy, well balanced sumptuous Unico.
(Wine Safari Score: 97/100 Greg Sherwood MW)
Bodegas Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial NV (2020), DOCa Ribera del Duero
Like the Unico, this Reserva Especial is entrancingly deep and savoury with earthy black fruits concertinaed between tannery leather, wet river stones and graphite minerality. The palate is dense, weighty and glycerol with layers of earthy black brambly fruits that coat the mouth. So fabulously full, expansive, plump and concentrated yet it never loses its freshness or textural frame or shape. Lovely intensity and complexity, this is quite simply another blockbuster with youthful purity, glycerol unctuousness and sublime harmony and balance.
(Wine Safari Score: 98/100 Greg Sherwood MW)