Grapevine Archive for Vega Sicilia

Tue 26 Jun 2012

Back in Time with Vega Sicilia

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One of the most remarkable and memorable Spanish wine tastings was held in London earlier this month. Remarkable because it focused on Ribera del Duero?s single-most outstanding terroir, that of Vega Sicilia Ùnico. Memorable because owner Pablo Alvarez had organised no fewer than 26 vintages, spanning eight decades; it was in his own words, ?a very important tasting for the history of Vega Sicilia.?

First let?s put Vega Sicilia into context. Ribera del Duero, a few hours drive north of Madrid, is a region built on its reputation for red wines yet ironically it is a very difficult place to grow grapes. Frost is a risk until June and not uncommon in September, summer can be fiercely hot, hail is a constant threat and the growing season quite compressed. This means that quality can vary enormously, depending on the vintage conditions and producer.

So how has Vega Sicilia?s quality been so consistent? This was my question to Pablo during my first visit to the property a few years ago. ?The answer is simple,? he responded proudly: ?lots of hard work in the vineyard.? They employ 50 people all year just to manage the vines, yields are kept very low, selection is severe in difficult years and in very difficult years no Ùnico is produced (such as 2001 and 1971). Furthermore, the vineyards span 19 different soil types and the winery has 57 fermentation tanks, which enables winemaker Xavier Ausás to micro-vinify the 57 plots identified within their vineyards. This is winemaking at its most regal.

Here are my edited notes (with scores out of 20) from all 26 vintages.

Ùnico, 2005

Exuberant, powerful and layered with fruit. A hot vintage, resulting in an atypical Ùnico, but nevertheless will bring pleasureable drinking. 17.5+

Ùnico, 2004

Beautifully structured, immensely pure, with a refreshing line of acidity.Outstanding. Hold until at least 2016. 19.5+

Ùnico, 2000

A tricky vintage, 40% of fruit discarded, yet one of my favourite wines. Not a blockbuster but delicious for its Claret-like fragrance, finesse & vitality. 18

Ùnico, 1999

A very late harvest (November) due to rain. Cedary nose, a touch herbaceous, palate surprisingly good, succulent, lively, firm. A difficult wine to understand. 16

Ùnico, 1996

Wonderful bouquet, tobacco, cedar, very fine persistent fruit, opulent texture, backed by ripe velvety tannins.An exceptional & truly great wine. 20

Ùnico, 1994

Wow, am I dreaming! Real lift & precision here, punchy, long and very intense. 19+

Ùnico, 1990 (in magnum)

Widely proclaimed vintage, this has lovely savoury complexity, substantial palate, muscular grainy tannins and power. 19

Ùnico, 1989
Alluring perfume, exotic, real Spanish flavour here, silky, supple and really classy.A point. 19.5

Ùnico, 1987

I adored the style of the 1987: pretty, refreshing, and very harmonious with crisp acidity and integrated tannins. Perfect now; I want to drink this. 17

Ùnico, 1983

Evolved nose, a hint of stewed fruit, palate fresher. At an awkward stage? 15

Ùnico, 1982

Serious, highly complex nose, fine, almost Burgundian delicacy, silky tannins. At its peak. 19

Ùnico, 1980

Tertiary aromas, dank, muscular palate, drying out. 14

Ùnico, 1979

Meaty, savoury nose, round, austere palate, incredibly fresh for a 30+ year-old wine. 15

Ùnico, 1976

Potent, spicy and scented, wonderful backbone of acidity, supple, juicy fruit. Real charm here. 18

Ùnico, 1973

Excellent bouquet, leather, mocha complexity, beautiful structure, punchy tannins supported by long, rich finish. 18.5

Ùnico, 1972

Unusual nose, flat, closed aroma, palate surprisingly vibrant, some sweet fruit. A mesmerising wine, confusing to taste. 15.5?

Ùnico, 1969

Refined, elegant and poised, perfectly integrated and delicious. 18.5

Ùnico, 1967

Similar elegant style to the 1969. Rounder, riper, quince-like fruit, tobacco too. Very good. 18.5+

Ùnico, 1965

Combining muscle with finesse, an extraordinary Ùnico. Velvety, fine and complete. 18.5+

Ùnico, 1964

A sensational wine. Exotic, earthy quality, opulent, broad, superbly structured, very very long. 19.5

Ùnico, 1960

Restrained, mineral nose, compact palate, lively fruit, fine tannins, real harmony. 17.5+

Ùnico, 1957

Mellow, harmonious, developed fruit, still fresh, very alluring. 16

Ùnico, 1953

Vigourous, dense fruit, generous, smooth, impressive. 18

Ùnico, 1942

Funky, oxidative character, palate harmonious & refreshing. 16.5

Ùnico, 1925

Surprising pale amber colour (was this ever a red wine?). Tangy, salty palate, really lively, full of flavour, tastes weirdly like a very good dry Madeira.

Ùnico, 1920

Tawny colour, oxidised fruit, sadly past its best. No score.

Categories : Spain, Wine Tastings
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