Sarah Jane Evans MW has tasted the latest releases from Vega Sicilia. Here, she gives some insight into the winery and rates the wines...

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Vega Sicilia, founded in 1864, built a global profile for the Ribera del Duero region decades before the creation of the denomination in 1982. That same year current owners, the Alvarez family, purchased the property.

Ribera del Duero is renowned for its reds from Tinto Fino (Tempranillo), but Vega Sicilia’s founder also introduced Bordeaux varieties. Today, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot still play a part in the wines, along with a certain Bordelais approach to winemaking.

Big changes

The latest releases of Único 2005 and Reserva Especial (a blend of 2003, 2004 and 2006), are both wines that pre-date some big changes at Vega Sicilia; a new winery, designed by former Technical Director Javier Ausás, now has every possible detail for control of the winemaking process.

Valbuena 5 2012, however, did come from this new winery. Current Technical Director Gonzalo Iturriaga highlights the difference:

‘Javier really improved the quality of the wines with the new winery; we can now vinify everything separately. As a result, Valbuena was once a second wine, but no longer’.

As for Reserva Especial, this reflects an old tradition where the best of a selection of vintages were blended to create an individual – non-vintage – wine. Iturriaga has the task of choosing the wines from the era of Ausás, or even potentially from as far back as his predecessor, Mariano García (who oversaw the wines from 1968-98). He revels in the opportunity, ‘It’s a lovely part of my job’.

A mixed bag

The December 2016 tasting of the Vega Sicilia wines in London reflected a mixed bag of vintages. The Benjamin Rothschild & Vega Sicilia Macán project from Rioja is still finding its feet, and suffered from having to show wines from a less than exciting year. I look forward to the 2015 vintage.

Alión 2013 equally was not from a great vintage. However Valbuena 5, Único and Reserva Especial all reinforced the reputation of Vega Sicilia and its team.

Vega Sicilia’s new releases tasted by Sarah Jane Evans MW:

Click on the wines for more details, including stockist links

Vega Sicilia, Pintia 2012

Vega Sicilia, Pintia, Toro 2012

Whereas Ribera del Duero is continental in climate, with cold winters and hot summers, Toro is ever more extreme and…

Points 91