Sarah Jane Evans MW has tasted the latest releases from Vega Sicilia. Here, she gives some insight into the winery and rates the wines...
Scroll down to see Sarah Jane’s tasting notes
‘Evolution not revolution’ is the mantra at Vega Sicilia. There were promising signs of the implementation of the gradual development across the wines at the first international launch of the Vega Sicilia new releases for 2018.
Reserva Especial, the traditional NV blend across three vintages, was the star. It makes the case for blending being more than just the sum of the parts.
The new winery at Vega Sicilia opened in 2010, so the Reserva Especial does not yet reflect the changes to the technology.
Technical director Gonzalo Iturriaga joined in September 2015, and is working on a number of fronts.
‘For instance, with Valbuena we’re looking at going back to stainless steel for the 2nd year, after that important first year in oak. We are trialling a number of different coopers. We are also playing with the size of the vats. In the future we are working more with the concrete; and with Alion we are starting to bring in a little American oak. Overall our work is moving from wood to velvety tannins.’
The tasting certainly revealed brighter wines, moderated oak, less tough tannin. The subtle changes don’t alter the signature of the wines, but they do provide freshness, and some more fruit. This work has been echoed in Rioja, where the focus has been on suiting the appropriate oak and winemaking to Tempranillo.
Vega Sicilia new releases rated:
About Vega Sicilia
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.
What Sarah Jane said about last year’s releases, including Único 2005
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.
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