Vega Sicilia New Release Tasting 2017 with Antonio Menendez Puente and Technical Director Gonzalo Iturriaga de Juan…

There are a few release tastings held in London every year that I really look forward to. Top of the list is of course the new bottled vintage release tasting of Domaine de la Romanee Conti normally held in January or early February. No need for an explanation there. After DRC, there are a couple more that are thoroughly captivating, one being the Gaja new release Cru Barolo and Barbaresco tastings and the other has to be the annual tasting of the new vintages of Bodegas Vega Sicila.

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 winery began building its formidable reputation after 1903 under the ownership of Antonio Herrero, winning a number of awards, and enjoying extensive international distribution. The estate changed hands several more times before its acquisition by the current owners, the Alvarez family, in 1982. The Vega Sicilia range now includes three cuvees namely the Unico flagship red followed by the Reserva Especial which is a blend of top vintages, both made up of Tinto Fino (80%), Cabernet Sauvignon and a small portion of Merlot, and then traditionally aged for 10 years before release. Nowadays the Unico wines are aged for only 5 to 6 years before bottling. Valbuena is made from younger vines and is only released after 5 years ageing.

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. All in all, an amazing array of wines that never fail to excite.

Macan Clasico, Rioja 2014

Rich warming perfumed nose with lush opulent fruit notes of earthy black berries, black plums and parma violets, with a tantalising sprinkling of mocha and vanilla pod spice. Texturally very silky and suave with fine density and flesh yet finely focused and balanced, finishing with smokey, rich, bruleed blueberry length. Seriously impressive and utterly delicious.

(Wine Safari Score: 94+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Pintia Reserva, Toro 2014

Lovely bold dark broody nose laden with black plum, black cherry, smokey cedary graphite and crushed gravel mineral complexity. The palate is plump, full bodied and muscular, showing finely honed tannins, soft elegant integrated acids and a dark forest berry, brambly finish. A fine distinguished Pintia that gets more and more noble with each and every new vintage release.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Bodegas Alion 2014, Ribera del Duero

Dark, taught broody aromatics that are shy at this early phase. Takes a little coaxing out the glass but all the classic Alion notes are there… black berry confit, black damson plums, tar, graphite and liquorice, saline cassis, bruleed coffee beans and caramelised oak nuances. The palate weight portrays great depth and power, plenty of muscle and intense salty caramelised black berry depth. Rich and creamy in texture, there is some tenderness to the under belly but it finishes with picante notes of cedary oak and spicy mulberry coulis. Another serious effort that will reward 10+ years of ageing.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Valbuena 5 2013, Ribera del Duero

The 2013s were generally lighter and fresher and this wine speaks confidently but softly with the aromatics showing real Rioja’ish earthy, savoury tinged red fruit notes. Quite foresty and brambly, there is plenty of bruleed raisined strawberry fruit, lactic milk chocolate and sweet saddle leather complexity. The palate is elegant and fine boned, built around a solid frame of crisp acidity and taught, linear earthy savoury fruit texture. This was always going to be a slightly earlier drinking vintage, which is not a bad thing with so many big vintages released from Vega Sicilia in the past decade. Impressively complex from the outset, this is ready to drink now and over the next 10+ years.

(Wine Safari Score: 93+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Unico Reserva 2006, Ribera del Duero

With some back tracking to an older vintage release, this wine displays plenty of power, fragrance and depth, with a most seductive nose of sweet briary, savoury cured meats, strawberry confit, tannery leather, molasses tinged black fruits and a creamy lactic high toned lift. The palate texture is crisp, direct and slightly linear still, displaying fine fresh acids, plenty of sleek, taught savoury earthy black fruits, balsamic richness and a fairly powerful, imposing structure. At almost 12 years old, this release is still very youthful and more about minerality, savoury tannins and tension than sweet accessible fleshy fruit notes. A very serious Unico that you should be in no rush to drink.

(Wine Safari Score: 96/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Vega Sicilia Unico Reseva Especial NV (2018), Ribera del Duero

A blend of 05/06/07, this Reserva Especial possesses power, ripeness and freshness. Immediately vibrant and vital on the nose, the glass is brimming with notes of earthy cassis, bramble berries, black cherry, stewed strawberries, and hints of charcoal, wood smoke and graphite. So compact and dense. The palate is full, opulent, dense and fleshy, conveying weight without being heavy, freshness without being tart, and concentration and length without losing its purity. Wonderfully sleek and polished, this is one of the most exciting Reserva Especial blends for a number of years. Drink now or cellar for 25+ years. A real block buster.

(Wine Safari Score: 98+/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Valbuena Vertical 2007-2009

Valbuena 5 2007, Ribera del Duero

Beautifully complex aromatics with dried herbs, briary, black cherry, sweet sappy wood spice and graphite minerality. Palate fruit has subtle molasses tinges with notes of winter stewed fruits, raisined strawberries and creamy, earthy bramble berry concentration, polished ripe tannins, creamy fleshy elegance and a long gravelly mineral finish. You can drink this now but will improve with a further 5+ years ageing.

(Wine Safari Score: 93/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Valbuena 5 2008, Ribera del Duero

The 2008 exhibits a tantalising nose of a spicy exotic red fruits, cassis leaf, red cherry, sappy spice, polished mahogany and picante cedary wood smoke notes. The black berry fruits have an opulent, ripe, caramelised edge with plenty of flesh, concentration and a saline acidity on the finish. Lovely balance, superb drinkability already but plenty of life still to live.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

Valbuena 5 2009, Ribera del Duero

Youthful and taught, the aromatics speak more of wood spice, pithy red cherry skins, strawberry confit and earthy stewed plums. The palate is lactic and forward with plenty of creamy depth and fleshy baby fat. Still coming together, this is perhaps not quite yet ready to pull out the cellar. A lot of tannin power and density and still playing it’s cards close to its chest. Snuffle this one away in the cellar depths for another 5 to 8 years.

(Wine Safari Score: 94/100 Greg Sherwood MW)

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