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Of the 1,000 hectares making up the Vega Sicilia estate, 210 are used for wine growing, and there are 19 soil-types divided for management purposes into 52 plots with very specific characteristics. The influence of the flow of the river Duero and the passage of time have been vital in forming these soils.
70 of these hectares are employed to produce Unico. A unique, magical estate which, along with extraordinary management of the vineyard, enables the production of legendary wines.
The Unico ageing process is probably the world's longest, since it runs for at least ten years from the barrel to the bottle. 225-litre barrels of French and American wood, both new and used, and 20,000-litre tanks. A long complex process for a great wine.
The flagship wine Unico is a wine for all eternity. Only a handful of terroirs worldwide are able to match wine's extraordinary ageing capacity. This is a wine of inimitable style, mature, tremendously elegant and silky, in which the ageing process brings the mystique of the essence to the surface.
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
Alcohol: 14.5 %
Blend: 97% Tinto Fino and 3% Cabernet-Sauvignon
Average age of vines: 35 years
Vineyard surface area: 210 ha
Planting density: 2,222 plants/ha
Altitude: 700 m
Yield: 3,600 kg /ha
Harvest: Hand-picked, in 12 kg-boxes
VINTAGE 2008: In 2008, a very dry winter was followed by a cold and rainy spring - although without May frosts, which gave rise to late budding and slow and unequal initial development of the vine's cycle.
Throughout May and up to 17 June there were storms of a certain intensity along with strong winds and hailstones in certain areas. A dry summer allowed for recovery in the cycle, and particularly noteworthy was a wide temperature range in July and August, with differences in the daytime high and night-time low of between 20 and 24 degrees.
Low nocturnal temperatures continued into September, with a minimum of 1 degree recorded on 29 September. The anti-frost towers were therefore activated, and also protected the crop on 2 and 3 October, when minimum temperatures of 0 degrees occurred. The grape harvest commenced on 10 October by which time great phenolic and aromatic ripeness had been achieved due to the wide temperature range from colour-changing onwards and lower sugar accumulation compared to an average year in the zone. An Atlantic-style vintage with great colour and aroma intensity, potent structure, and an acidity plus which will aid the wines' longevity.
STORAGE, SERVING AND DRINKING WINDOW: These wines are ready for drinking now but may potentially be stored for approximately 40-60 years if kept in optimum conditions (12-14 ºC) at 40% relative humidity, at a constant temperature. Optimum drinking temperature is 18 ºC.
PRODUCTION: 59.214 Bordeaux bottles, 3,323 magnums, 210 double magnums, 24 imperial bottles.
YEAR BOTTLED: June 2014.
96 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate
2008 was a challenging vintage in Ribera del Duero, a vintage marked by a severe frost on September 24th. The vineyards of Vega Sicilia were saved by some anti-frost burners that really made the difference. Even though, there are only some 70,000 bottles of 2008 Único, a wine that will be released around March 2016 after the 2007, and before they sell 2005 and 2006. It's a fresher, more mineral version of Vega, and very much Vega in character. It has a certain aroma that I cannot define that I also found in the 2011 Valbuena. The palate is surprisingly polished; the wine is quite accessible from now on, with fine tannins and a subtle thread of acidity going through the core. This is a lighter version of Único, but one style I like very much; it's a wine that should drink well throughout its life. A triumph for the vintage conditions.
94 points Wine Spectator
Savory flavors of tobacco, mineral, smoke and spice frame a core of cherry and pomegranate in this red. Harmonious and graceful, supported by well-integrated tannins and fresh acidity. Has deceptive depth and complexity. Drink now through 2028.
97% Tinto Fino, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14 months in large wooden vats, 18 months in new barrels, 8 months in used casks and 24 months in large wooden foudres (French/American) prior to ageing in bottle before commercial release. Deep garnet with a wide smudgy rim. Spicy and laced with sweet chocolate. A certain untamed quality to the fine dark fruit. Peppery and highly seasoned but that doesn’t batter the fruit, which is more like blackberry than cherry or cassis. As on several of the wines from this stable, there’s a savoury dark-olive quality. Tannins are thick, resolved but not yet fine/elegant. Still remarkably not ready for the fullest expression of pleasure but it is clearly moving towards refinement and already has wonderful length. 19+/20 Score
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