December is prime festive season. So what better time to taste the new vintage releases from Spain’s very own first growth and most prestigious winery, Vega Sicilia in Ribera del Duero. This icon estate covers around 1000 hectares, of which 250 are under vine. It was founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of local grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec) and planted them, together with Spain’s signature grape Tinto Fino, a clone of Tempranillo.
The winery started to acquire its formidable reputation after 1903 under the ownership of Antonio Herrero. The estate changed hands several times before the acquisition by its current owners, the Alvarez family, in 1982.
The Vega Sicilia range is made up of several cuvees including the Unico vintage, being the flagship, followed by the non-vintage Reserva Especial red, a blend of top vintages, made up of Tinto Fino (Tempranillo 80%), Cabernet Sauvignon and little splash of Merlot, with normally 10 years traditional ageing, though this has recently started to decrease to 5 or 6 years under new wine maker, Javier Ausas.
Valbuena is normally made from younger vines, and in years when Unico is not produced, grapes normally destined for Unico will go into Valbuena. It is only released after 5 years ageing making it a classic Tinto Riserva.
The nearby sister single-estate of Bodegas Alion also produces a fashionably high quality red wine for either drinking on release or for ageing up to 10+ years. Last but not least, is probably one of the top wines in Toro, if not THE top wine in the Toro DO, the Bodegas Pintia.
The New Releases: Bodegas Pintia 2012, Toro, is a bright, dense ruby red. Beautifully perfumed nose of raspberry confit, caramelised cherries, red plum and a hint of mocha spice and black current opulence. Entry is creamy, plush, and textural with powdery tannins, and pithy stoney gravel notes. Plenty of graphite, bramble berry fruits and an earthy caramel and oak spice lick. (93/100)
Bodegas Alion 2013 Ribera del Duero, shows a sweet perfumed lifted nose of cherry blossom, violets, and polished mahogany. Exotic and alluring with subtle savoury oak, vanilla spice and black berry molasses and balsamic nuances. Texturally very elegant and light on its feet. Fine, silky and sleek on the palate. Nicely framed by crunchy acids, finishing with such tight fruit precision. Very attractive effort that leans to a more feminine finesse Alion style. (94+/100)
Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 2012 Ribera del Duero has a rich, dark, broody nose with attractive caramelised black plums, molasses, kirsch liquor, and Christmas pudding. The palate is seductively rich, luxurious and elegant with layers of cherry liquor, cassis, and berry confit. Seamless, ultra polished tannins lead to a long, fine, fleshy well proportioned finish. Really lovely. (96/100)
Vega Sicilia Unico 2005 Ribera del Duero is opulent, rich, dense and dark fruited. Plenty of depth and fine caramelised plums, black berry, savoury earthy black current, with molasses hints, oak spice and condensed milk nuances. Palate is cool, elegant, light footed, vibrant yet eminently fresh. Definitely softer, finer, style than you’d expect from a young Unico. Impressively earthy, elegant, super complex and sophisticated, even regal. One to age in your cellar. (97/100)
Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial NV is a multi-vintage blend of 2003, 2004 and 2006. This is a more familiar, traditional, masculine Unico style despite its extra mellowing aged vintages. Shows lovely definition, polished sleek elegant tannins, pronounced concentration, power and more mineral grip and savoury depth. Crushed gravel, caramelised cherries, molasses and stewed winter fruits lead to a long, complex finish. (96/100)