Parker: In the absence of a 2001 Unico, Vega Sicilia has re-released the 2000 Unico which I reviewed in Issue 189. The 2000 Unico is deep crimson-colored with an ethereal perfume aided by its extended upbringing. Aromas of Asian spices, lavender, incense, truffle, and confiture of black fruits are compelling. Sweet, forward, rich, and hedonistic, it nevertheless has the balance and structure to continue evolving for another 5-10 years. In strong vintages Vega Sicilia drinks well at age 50 and I would expect the same of the 2000.
Unico is the Vega Sicilia flagship. The qualities of the Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon in different proportions are assembled to perfection in this wine. Each provides a differentiating factor that makes the wine great in every vintage.
The vines are grown on plots where the land is located at the point between the slopes down from the wasteland and the alluvial plain. The soil nearest the surface is made out of fine colluvial deposits from the hillside with small fragment of limestone. There is abundant quartz gravel deeper down in a sandy main soil. There are many angular limestone boulders on the surface.
Red wine made in controlled fermentation using native yeast in wooden tanks. Malolactic fermentation also takes place in wood. After its fermentation, its goes through what is probably the world's longest ageing of a red wine, almost 10 years between wood and bottle. The different stages take place in different types of barrel: American and French wood, new and used 225-litre barrels, 20,000-litre vats, each batch is what determines the type of wood and the time spent in each container. After the stage in the wood, it is aged in the bottle to complete a long and complex ageing process. It will normally spend 6 years in wood and three in the bottle.
The different elements in its preparation are fine-tuned in the search of the master line that has guided the wine. Único remains true to a clear and well-defined style, with an inimitable character and style; elegance, strength, ageing capacity... A unique and timeless taste that has elevated it to among the aristocracy of the great classic wines.
It offers an infinite complexity that is gradually revealed, in every sip, the palate immensely silky and elegant, and has an ageing capacity that only a handful of wines in the world can claim.
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 30.000 to 100.000 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
The forging of the Myth
In 1864, Eloy Lecanda founded the winery that symbolises the golden legend of Spanish red wine.
Throughout its long history, it has belonged to different owners, although it has always maintained an
unquestionable personality, making concentrated, mature, generous and extremely elegant.
Discover how a unique myth in European wine culture is forged.
1848. Acquisition of land
The history of this estate began in 1848, when Toribio Lecanda, a landowner of Basque origin, bought a
2,000 hectare estate used for agriculture and cattle farming from the Marquis of Valbuena.
1864. Vega Sicilia founded
Eloy, son of Toribio Lecanda, founder of the Vega Sicilia winery in 1864, bought 18,000 shoots of cabernet
sauvignon, malbec, merlot and pinot noir in Bordeaux, to be used in the making of brandy and ratafias. In
1876, in the Philadelphia Fair, Lecanda obtained a quality certificate for his brandies. That same year, he
succeeded in achieving the position as supplier to the Royal Family, and in 1880, he obtained the Grand
Cross of Isabel the Catholic; all before the birth of the red wine that was to make the company famous.
1904. The incorporation of Domingo Garramiola
With the estate having been acquired by the Herrero family, it is rented to Cosme Palacio, who creates the
winery of Domingo Garramiola, a person who is crucial to the history of Vega Sicilia.
Domingo Garramiola Txomin was born in Marquina-Echevarría on 1st October 1878. In Vega Sicilia,
Domingo used Bordeaux techniques for making wine. He renewed the aging casks and, above all, made
great efforts in cleaning the wine presses.
1915. The birth of two exceptional wines
The hard work of Txomin Garramiola gave fruit in 1915, with the birth of two exceptional wines: Vega
Sicilia and Valbuena. These wines followed along the lines of the Rioja wines of the day: lengthy aging 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 not
for commercial purposes. The owners of the winery offered this wine as a gift to the good friends of the
family. Thus began the forging of the legend of Spain ́s most exclusive wine, as it cannot be bought with
money, but only with friendship.
1929. Prize at the World Fair
The wines of Vega Sicilia reached great public recognition thanks to prizes such as that of the World Fair
in Barcelona in 1929, awarded to the 1917 and 1918 harvests.
1933. The Death of Domingo Garramiola
Surrounded by his family in his house in Vega Sicilia, Domingo Garramiola died in 1933. The winemaker
left a very personal stamp on the best classic Spanish wine. The responsibility of continuing with his work
fell on his closest collaborator, Martiniano Renedo.
1956- The arrival of Jesús Anadón to Vega Sicilia
Jesús Anadón joined the wineries in 1956. He was to be director of the company for several decades and
his incorporation was transcendental to Vega Sicilia and he started up the Ribera del Duero Designation of
1982. The Álvarez family acquired Bodegas Vega Sicilia
The current stage began in 1982, when David Álvarez acquired the winery and the vineyards from the
Venezuelan businessman Miguel Neumann. Since that year, the Álvarez Mezquíriz family has developed a
policy of harmonisation of present innovative techniques required by the wine sector with the traditional
winemaking process. The vineyard area has been extended and a modernisation process has taken place
both in and out of the winery.Venezuelan businessman Miguel Neumann.
Since that year, the Álvarez Mezquíriz family has developed a policy of harmonisation of present innovative techniques
required by the wine sector with the traditional
winemaking process. The vineyard area has been extended and a modernisation process has taken place
both in and out of the winery.
1985. The retirement of Jesús Anadón
The retirement of Jesús Anadón meant the leaving of a man who assumed his responsibilities as director
and oenologist of Vega Sicilia in a highly personal way. On 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. Consolidation of a team of expert oenologists
1998 saw the incorporation of Xavier Ausás into the technical management of the winery group after
working for six years as oenologist in Vega Sicilia. Xavier, together with his sister Mercedes, and Begoña
Jovellar, is the father, master and educator of the company ́s wines.
1992. Creation of Bodegas Alión
Investigations led to the doors of Bodegas Liceo, a company founded in 1990 and located in Peñafiel
(Valladolid). The winery had just begun and had all the technological requirements required. After lengthy
discussion, the family acquired the winery on 5th November 1992.
Alión was born; a name laden with emotion as it corresponds to the town of León in which the family
patriarch, David Álvarez, was born.
1993. The Álvarez family arrives in Hungary
In 1993, Vega Sicilia founds Tokaj Oremus. The personality of the Álvarez family adds to the historic
tradition of both wines. Pablo Álvarez, managing director of Vega Sicilia, is also responsible for this new
project. The wine is studied in great detail and with great respect, together with its significance, its
laborious winemaking process, historical practices... An experienced team of professionals with good
knowledge of the region ́s wines is also sought.
From the moment the vineyards were founded to present day, the Álvarez family, respecting the Tokaj
traditions, has made considerable investment in Tokaj Oremus with a view to increasing the technical level
of the treatment of the grape and the winemaking installations, so as to make the best wines possible. The
objective of the Álvarez family is to give its former grandeur to this vineyard, which is one of the best
situated, the most emblematic and significant of Tokaj.
2000. Primum Familiae Vini and Vega Sicilia
Primum Familiae Vini, and organisation formed by the twelve family-run wineries of the highest
international prestige, which includes Vega Sicilia, held its annual reunion on the state, presided by Pablo
The year 2000 was also the year which saw the end of the renovation and modernisation process of the
2001. Purchase and constitution of Bodegas Alquiriz
Bodegas Alquiriz is the new project that is to promote Vega Sicilia. The desire of the Álvarez family is to
make the best Toro wine, a designation that gives wines body, exoticism, an explosion of aromas, and a
modern personality and character.
For this, since the harvest of 1997, 70 hectares of vineyard have been bought in different places within the
Designation of Origin. After four years ́ study of the concept of the wine, it is begun to be made in 2001 for
commercial purposes. The strategy of this new winery is common to all those in the group: make wines
with personality and high quality, which implies limited production of wine.