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News

MUCH MORE THAN WINE - The endless path to excellence.

 There are people who believe that the myth of Vega Sicilia was due to its being an aristocratic wine, in scarce supply, and only within the means of a fortunate few; an object of desire that only a privileged minority could enjoy. However, what many do not know, is that the real origin of the legend lies in a story of hope, commitment and patience on the banks of the River Duero, as it runs through the heart of Castilla, where the river laps against and nourishes a unique and exceptional, nearly magical estate. 

This wise, hard, gnarled and barren land was destined to something great. It had to join forces with time to fulfil its great dream: to give the best of itself, achieve extraordinary crops that would fill it with pride and show off the splendour of nature. Yet, to do so, land and time needed man's help. Someone to be their eyes and hands and farm in line with nature's rhythms. As only in that way, when we are humble enough to accept nature's way, do we achieve exceptional results.

 

Centuries passed waiting for someone to listen to the call of this magical land. And very few people have the gift to see further, to listen to what  others hear, to feel what others do not feel. Until one day, fate brought along a man who listened to its call, a man who followed his intuition and change the traditional crop of cereals for the best vine stocks of the 19th century. A man who knew how to learn from nature, patiently respected its rhythms, looked after the land and protected time, thus achieving a perfect balance.

Autumn was the time of the grape harvest and the land could, after all, begin to dream, for which it was pre-destined; the grapes proved to be of an unrivalled quality and personality and, after maturing in the silence and solitude of the winery, became one of the greatest legends of the history of wine. Vega Sicilia was finally born.

 

 

What Happens when Vega Sicilia Teams up With Lafite?

Although they haven’t done too much to promote it, Vega Sicilia and Lafite have developed a project together in Rioja called “Macan”. This is like Mercedes merging with Ferrari, so despite the two wine giants tiptoeing into the market, it’s a huge deal.

For those who follow wine news, this is not a breaking story. Vega and Lafite have been working on this project for 15 years!

We first tasted the wines in 2012 at Vega Sicilia about a year before they were released to the New York market. How were they?

Well, let’s just say if you are a fan of Vega’s bold but elegant style you will find a lot to fall in love with here. These are certainly on the modern side (for Rioja) and overflow with the coffee, mocha and smoke of luxurious French oak.

At the same time, the wines have a fine thread of silk that runs through them—a nod to the classic wines of Vina Real from the 1940s, which Vega’s owner is a fan of (who isn’t?). In short, there is something here for modern lovers and classicists alike.

Perhaps the biggest point is that these wines have “introductory” pricing. Sure they are pricey for new wines, but this is Vega and Lafite we are talking about and “Macan” can be had for a fraction of either of those estates. If you consider the time, effort, and funding behind this project—not to mention the pedigree—the pricing is designed to get people tasting and talking about them. We think it’s a great conversation to have!

 by Adam Eisenberg

 

 

 

 

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History

Unico – Bodegas Vega Sicilia Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico is still “a prophet in its own land”, Spain, and only a small part of the production leaves the country to be sold abroad. The production of Unico varies from 40.000 to 120.000 bottles depending on the year. The commercial success of Unico is nevertheless decided beforehand regardless of the amount produced, since each vintage is already sold out before the bottling. Yet 700 people are queuing for Unico´s customer list hoping that some of the customers of long standing would give up their place, or forget to order anything for two years, which automatically drops them from the list. The list of the privileged subscribers does not exceed 4,000, and they naturally remain anonymous.

 

Pablo Alvarez, manager of Vega Sicilia, is conscientious when it comes to impartiality towards long standing loyal customers, even though the balance between the company´s firm commercial policy and influential quarters wanting wines outside its customer list is not always easy to maintain. For example, when Queen Elizabeth II visited Spain a few years ago, the British Embassy wanted Vega Sicilia to represent Spain´s wine tradition at the dinner arranged to honour the Queen. Although the order had been duly placed and at decent notice, the estate was able to deliver only four cases for the dinner, of course with all manner of apologies for not having been able to meet the order in full. Respecting loyal customers has been a matter of tremendous importance for Bodegas Vega Sicilia throughout its history.

 

When Jesús Anadón was the estate steward the United States´ importer paid a visit and told him that in his faraway homeland the demand was more than 200.000 bottles. As he determinedly insisted that his order be multiplied, the inimitable Jesús stated without blinking an eye that the limit was 500 bottles and no more, and this was his last word. Unico is a unique wine, and one of the great Spanish classics. It is the signature wine of Vega Sicilia and is taken from some of the oldest vines available.

 

The wine is mostly Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. – The Unico wine is produced only in exceptional years, that is, in the course of one decade two or three vintages are "sacrificed" in order to maintain the high quality. It is right that the effect of the harvest is present in each wine: then the -81, -74, -75, -66. -65 and -62 are Unicos in aromatical complexity reaching baroque extremes and the -70, -89, -62, -42 and -22 ones are based on the tannic power reaching to be perpetual wine” , said Mr. Alvarez to me when we asked his personal opinion best vintages of Unicos

 

A Vega Sicilia Time Line

1848. Acquisition of land 

The history of this estate began in 1848, when Toribio Lecanda, a landowner of Basque origin, bought a 2000-hectare estate used for agriculture and cattle farming from the Marquis of Valbuena.

1864. Vega Sicilia founded

Eloy, son of Toribio Lecanda, and founder of the Vega Sicilia winery in 1864, bought 18 000 shoots of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, merlot and pinot noir in Bordeaux, in order to use them in the making of brandy and ratafias. In 1876, at the Philadelphia Fair, Lecanda obtained a quality certificate for his brandies.

1904. The incorporation of Domingo Garramiola

With the estate having been acquired by the Herrero family, it is then rented to Cosme Palacio, who creates the winery of Domingo Garramiola, a person who is crucial to the history of Vega Sicilia.

1915. The birth of Unico

1915 was the birth year of two new wines: Vega Sicilia Unico and Valbuena. These wines followed along the lines of the Rioja wines of the day: lengthy ageing in vats and wooden casks and bottled to order. The distribution of these first bottles began among the upper class bourgeoisie and the aristocracy, but none were available for commercial purposes. Thus began the forging of the legend of Spain’s most exclusive wine, as it cannot be bought with money - only with friendship.

1929. A Prize at the World Fair

The wines of Vega Sicilia first reached real public recognition thanks to prizes awarded at, among others, the World Fair in Barcelona in 1929. On this occasion, accolades were bestowed on the 1917 and 1918 vintages.

1933. The Death of Domingo Garramiola

Domingo Garramiola died in 1933. The responsibility of continuing with his work fell on his closest collaborator, Martiniano Renedo.

1956- The arrival of Jesús Anadón

Jesús Anadón joined the wineries in 1956. He was to be director of the company for several decades.

1982. The Álvarez family acquires Bodegas Vega Sicilia

The current stage began in 1982, when David Álvarez acquired the winery and the vineyards from the Venezuelan businessman Miguel Neumann.

1985. The retirement of Jesús Anadón

The retirement of Jesús Anadón meant the leaving of a man who carried out his responsibilities as director and oenologist of Vega Sicilia in a highly personal way. Upon his departure, Pablo Álvarez took full possession of the general management of the winery; the oenology area was taken on by Mariano García, who had been Jesús Anadón’s assistant since joining the company in 1968.

1998. The consolidation of a team of expert oenologists

1998 saw the incorporation of Xavier Ausás into the technical management of the winery group after six years working as an oenologist in Vega Sicilia. Xavier, together with his sister Mercedes and Begoña Jovellar, is considered to be the father, master and educator of the company ‘s wines.

1993. The Álvarez family arrives in Hungary

Tokaj Oremus is founded by Vega Sicilia.

1991. The creation of Bodegas Alión

Alión winery was born on the 5th of November 1992. This is a name laden with emotion, as it corresponds to the town of León in which the family patriarch, David Álvarez, was born.

2000. Primum Familiae Vini and Vega Sicilia

Primum Familiae Vini is an organisation formed by the twelve family-run wineries of the highest international prestige, and which includes Vega Sicilia. The year 2000 was also the year which saw the end of the renovation and modernisation process of the winery.

2001. The purchase and constitution of Bodegas Alquiriz

Bodegas Alquiriz is the new project that has been designed to promote Vega Sicilia. The desire of the Álvarez family is to make the best Toro wine. In order to do this, 70 hectares of vineyard have been bought in different places, since the harvest of 1997, within the Designation of Origin. In 2001, after four years of studying the concept of the wine, it was made for commercial purposes for the very first time. 

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Vineyards

In 1982, when the vineyard was acquired by the Alavarez family, major investments and the modernisation of its wine production were made in Vega Sicilia. The Alvarezes also questioned the length of maturation times in barrels and bottles, making an effort to shorten them – however, this was done for quality rather than commercial reasons. The head of the family, Pablo Alvarez, is the man who is largely responsible for Vega Sicilia's current success. He is one of the owners and oversees the estate's wines. Pablo is a pensive and modest man, whose unassuming way of expressing himself is just as significant as the thing being said. For him, quality and striving to achieve it are essential to the production of wine. Indeed, the inclusion of quality in every aspect of winemaking is sacred to him, as he himself explains:

“In my opinion, the philosophy of winemaking and quality are one and the same. But what exactly do we mean when we say quality? In the world of winemaking there are no secrets or magic formulas. As in any profession, you just have to work to the absolute best of your abilities, which is, of course, easier said than done. In practice it is not a question of having a good vineyard in a prime location or using state-of-the-art wine production equipment – people are also needed in the equation. They not only have to be real professionals — and there are plenty of those to be found — but also something more: they have to be honest and they have to contribute more than just their know-how to the work – they also have to love their work.”

 

Vega Sicilia’s own plantations are located on the slopes along the right bank of the Duero River, between Valbuena and Quintanilla. It is here that the vineyard owns 965 hectares of land, approximately 250 of which are covered by vines.

 

“I believe that Vega Sicilia is located in one of the world's best production regions and that it has a truly unique vineyard, which, when you consider the end result, is more important than the production process itself. The climate here is very harsh, almost at the limit of where grapes can generally be grown, and that is why the grapes grown in this area are of such high quality. This comes from all the hard work done on the plantations year after year. The result is a magnificent grape, which remains virtually unchanged throughout production. The wine must be kept pure and unprocessed – we can do that here. Quality wines must contain all the components and none of its basic elements must override another. It has to be complex and refined. In my opinion, our region produces exactly these kinds of wines. But, as I said before, you can’t do this without a vineyard that gives the wine its personality and structure,” Alvarez says.

 

Vega Sicilia produces three different wines. Unico is the estate’s flagship wine, which has a production of 50 000-100 000 a season. Unico is only produced during excellent years, which come only three or four times a decade. It is allowed to mature for an exceptionally long time in oak barrels and bottles before being shipped to stores. The process used to take ten years, but now it "only" takes 5-6 years. For example, the outstanding vintage of 1970 was not released for sale until 1997 and all the Unico magnums with the same vintage, some 2000 bottles, were finally released in 2000, thirty years after the harvest.

 

Weaker vintages of Unico are sacrificed for use in producing the excellent Valbuena. The production yield of Valbuena 5 ranges between 100 000 and 200 000 bottles. The number 5 in Valbuena’s name indicates the maturation time in the cellar, which is three years in barrels and two in bottles. Previously, the repertoire included Valbuena 3, but its production was discontinued after the 1993 vintage.

 

In addition to these wines Vega Sicilia also produces Unico Reserva Especial. This is the vineyard’s most expensive and, in their opinion, finest wine. The Unico Reserva does not have a specific vintage; Vega Sicilia has adopted an old Spanish winemaking tradition, where the best old vintages are blended to combine the best characteristics of each, thus resulting in the wonderfully balanced and consistent Reserva Especial – which is arguably the vineyard's finest wine. Only the absolute best Unico vintages are used to produce Reserva Especial. The production volume is very small and the price is nearly twice that of the Unico.

 

Purificácion Mancebo explains: “The wine vintage concept is itself a newer practice than blending. We produce some 10 000-15 000 bottles of this well-tuned Vega Siciliano-style wine every year, blending both older and newer vintages. Our current blend contains vintages from 1985, 1991 and 1994. Our quality control is very tight in every phase of production; we don’t do act on impulse here at the vineyard. When the Pintia Toro project started in 1995-96, Pablo Alvarez began to buy plots (46 hectares of old grapevines, ranging from 25 to 53 years of age) in Toro, wisely neglecting to mention that he was the owner of Vega Sicilia. In 1997 he began researching the output of these plots. It wasn’t until the 2000s that he finally introduced the first official vintage - the 2003.”

 

Vega Sicilia also makes its own barrels, which are used for no more than four years. The amount of French oak used is increasing, and currently accounts for 50 per cent of the wood used. This extremely strict adherence to high quality control standards is also applied to corks.

 

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Winemaking

Even though the structure and style of the wine seem to indicate adherence to the decades-old recipe, that recipe is not the same as the one used 50 years ago. Tasting these perfectly elegant and harmonious wines at an oak table in the estate owner’s residence raises questions about the future of the vineyard. Is there anything more that could possibly be done to improve the quality of these wines? Is it even necessary? After pondering for a moment, Pablo Alvarez answers:“Quality will always come first, both now and in the future. The only way to move forward is to produce vintages, each one better than the next, because that is the very essence of wine – there will never be an absolutely perfect product. However, the quest for that unattainable goal represents our future.”

 

Fermentation

The alcoholic fermentation usually lasts fifteen days, and the maximum temperature it may reach is of 32 degrees. The optimum ripeness of the selected grape from the harvest and the alcohol content, which varies between 13% and 14.5%, facilitate the extraction of colour and tannins. Vega Sicilia Único ferments preferentially in oak vats, and Valbuena in stainless steel vats.

Then, the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation. With the Valbuena wines, this second fermentation takes place in cement vats. For the Único wines, the liquid is poured directly into oak storage containers.There, the wines undergo malolactic fermentation at the same temperature as the Valbuena. Once finished, the wine remains in the containers for a further year, calmly resting and clearing.

 

Manufacture of casks

In Vega Sicilia, the oak cask forms part of the philosophical essence, forging a true consortium with the wine. In the same way that the grape used for these wines has its origin in the vineyards themselves, most of the casks are made in the winery itself. In a part of the estate, Vega Sicilia has a small cooper´s workshop, which not only repairs and reconditions, but also makes new casks with American oak. The wood is left to dry for at least three years: two in the open air, and then under cover. Once its humidity has been reduced to 12%, the master cooper works the wood and, with fire, hammer, know-how and tradition, forges its geometry into the familiar shape of the barrel.

 

Bottling

The bottling process of the wines takes place in very modern installations, with the winery’s dual mechanical and chemical control system of the corks. For this, the samples sent by the manufacturer are passed on to the prestigious French laboratory Excel. If the specified requirements are fulfilled, the supplier is told to send the order. On reception, random samples are taken from the different lots and resent to France for examination. If the order meets the winery’s quality standards, the wines are bottled using the corks in question.

 

Ageing in the bottle

The aging in the bottle requires time and care. The wines of Vega Sicilia end their journey with a calm rest in the bottle in specially acclimatised installations. The time they remain there depends on the format of the bottle: Vega Sicilia Único in Bordeaux format (0.75 litres) takes three years or more to age; the Magnum (one and a half litres) and the Double Magnum (three litres) are subjected to much longer periods of aging in the bottle. For the Valbuena, the period for aging in the bottle is the same for all three formats: around a year and a half. A system that takes us back in time. There is no hurry in Vega Sicilia.

 

 

 

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Inside information

Vega Sicilia recalls 100,000 bottles

SPANIEN (Valbuena de Duero) - Due to sediments occurring during that year, Vega Sicilia, the Spanish producer, recalled about 100,000 bottles of Pintia of the 2009 vintage. Pablo Alvarez, CEO of Vega Sicilia, personally apologized by letter to the customers, offering to replace each bottle either by a 2008 Pintia or by the version to come of the 2010 vintage.

The Pintia is a relatively new project of the Alvarez family. The wine is being produced out of grapes from the Toro region, Spain. The Pintia was first brought to market with the 2001 vintage. In 2009, 250,000 bottles were produced. „Last year, we noticed an over-average level of sediments in the 2009 Pintia – subsequent analyses showed excess anthocyanes*“, Pablo Alvarez says. „It's simply a mistake made during the clarification of the wine, nothing more. But it's a big shame viewing our customers and also viewing that the 2009 vintage was an outstanding one for the Pintia. But a wine with such a fault has to be removed from the market.“

Besides the 2009 Pintia, Vega Sicilia has the same problem with the 2010 Alion vintage and sediments. According to Mr. Alvarez, the number of bottles affected meanwhile amounts to 500,000 – which causes considerable costs for the house. „Of course, it's a hard decision to remove a whole vintage from the market“, Mr. Alvarez admits, „but in the end, we have much respect for our customers. We stand by our problems and tell the truth.“

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4 different wines with 94 vintages

Winemaking since 1858

  • Pablo Alvarez

    OWNER AND MANAGER
    "Never before have the vineyards been worked as much as today, and the same goes for the winemaking and care of our wines. I'm sure the quality will increase,”

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  2 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  31 wines 

The Finnish summer has not started yet - the sea is still cold (+14c) and it's raining every second day - but the colder the weather is, the better is the taste:)


Here are some summer wines I have tried between the showers.

2m 7d ago

 Essi Avellan MW / Editor of the Champagne magazine, Pro (Finland)  tasted  3 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  17 wines 

1995 Signature Rosé Jacquesson.  Delicate and pale orange-hued colour. Vinous and attractively spicy nose with red berry aromas and light autolytic influence. The mouthfeel is exterely round and velvety, packed with elegant fruitiness and layers of aromas. The rich body is refreshed by a firm acidic backbone that contius equalyyt long with the wine’s persistent aftertaste. Elegant, harmonius and ripely fruity rosé champagne that is very enjoyable today but will develop harmoniously for another decade.

4m 5d ago

 Pekka Nuikki / Founder of the Fine Wine Magazines, Pro (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  23 wines 

Last evening was a real " Voyage autour du monde" along with the top 24 wines that wine countries can offer, and there was only four of us enjoying them...Unfortunately, quite a lot of bottles remained half empty, but not the Petrus 2003, Cheval Blanc 1947, Screaming Eagle 1999, Pingus 1995, Haut-Brion Blanc 1995, Lafleur 1996 etc.

4m 24d ago

 Achim Becker / Wineterminator.com, Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  27 wines 

A Taste of Greatness -tasting with perfect wines like Martha's Vineyards 1974, Harlan 1994, Sassicaia 1985, Pingus 1995, Yquem 1899 etc.

5m 30d ago

 John Lee, Pro (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  14 wines 

Pierre Pérignon is said to have been a learned man, intelligent, broad-minded, warmhearted and punctual both in his religious and other duties. He was modest in character and way of life - an honorable man, small in size but with a big heart of gold. Such respect did he engender that when new bells were installed in the church of Hautvillers in 1706 his name was engraved on the largest. It was customary at the time to dedicate new church bells to the incumbent bishop and two other persons of note. As a winemaker monk Pérignon was a legend and as a man he seems to have been no less celebrated.


At the beginning of the 18th century the name of Dom Pérignon was so well-known that even many Frenchmen thought it a village or a monastery and searched for it on the map. Today his name remains just as famous and is a symbol for genuine and sophisticated champagne all over  the whole world.

6m 14d ago

 Andreas Larsson / Best Sommelier in the World 2004, Pro (Sweden)  tasted  1 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  4 wines 

1975 Lafleur – well what can one say – another kind of perfection, yet being so bloody discreet. There´s no show off here, and I’m sure that the legendary sisters Robin never tried to make anything remarkable, they just tended their vineyards and made wine kind off… however this alluring terroir has something special, I love to imbibe its perfume, as it offers so much, so many nuances and fragrances. The taste starts out very discreet but it just expands and lingers on the palate. This is truly a wine that deserves to be called Grand Vin…

6m 16d ago

 Sebastien Abric / Acker Merrall & Condit, Pro (France)  tasted  16 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  18 wines 

Some great Vega Sicilia Unicos from vintages 1921, 1924, 1936, 1942, 1946, 1951, 1962 etc.

7m 2d ago

 Juha Lihtonen, Sommelier (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  10 wines 

Putting in mouth anything that is 290 years old, sounds suspicious. Enjoying it so much that you wish to have plenty more of it souns insane. I truly enjoyed that "sanity" with great friends, when we sahred the world's oldest known wine available – 1727 Apostelwein. What an insane night it was with so many great wines – Romanee-Conti 1923, Vega-Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial 1973/1975/1976, Petrus 1982, Ch. Margaux 1982, Harlan 1993, Grange 1998, and Ch Climens 1943 bottled for Nazis. Wow!!

7m 2d ago

 Mikke Frisk, Wine Collector (Finland)  tasted  1 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  28 wines 

DRC Romanée-Conti 1961, Pétrus 1961, Unico 1961, Krug 1961, Château margaux 1961....etc.

7m 15d ago

 Thomas Alsgaard, Pro (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  14 wines 

Martha's Vineyard 1970, Sassicaia 1970, Grange 1970, Unico 1970 etc.

7m 15d ago

 Anton Panasenko / Best Sommelier of Russia 2003, Pro (Russia)  tasted  12 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  12 wines 

Vega Sicilia Unico 1951-1999: Fewer than 7,000 cases of Unico are produced each year on average, and only about 10% of those go to the U.S. The Vega Sicilia Unico 1999, sells for between $300 and $400 in the fewer than 100 U.S. wine stores that carry it. Procuring it in Spain is also a challenge: Individuals and even retailers and restaurants in Spain must add their names to a 5,000-person waiting list to become eligible for an annual allotment of the wine. If you do score a bottle, you may want to wait around 20 to 30 years to drink it, because it will take that long to reach its peak thanks to its long aging time in barrels.

7m 17d ago

 Morten Stomperud, Wine Collector (Norway)  tasted  16 wines  from  Bodegas Vega Sicilia . In a tasting of  18 wines 

Large Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico tasting with vintages 1921-2008

7m 25d ago

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