“The Lafite of Spain’: Vega Sicilia” Michael Broadbent

“Bodegas Vega Sicilia remains a benchmark for the world’s great red wines” Jay Miller

Vega Sicilia is Spain’s most famous wine and it competes with the greatest wines of France and Italy for pride of place in the Pantheon of the greatest wines in the world. Their flagship wine Unico is world class wine and a major player in drinking cellars and investment portfolios. 2004 was an exceptional vintage in Ribera Del Duero and Rioja – a modern-day classic – comparable to 2000 and 2005 in Bordeaux. In August 2010 Neil Martin awarded the 2004 vintage of Unico 97 points, subsequently Jancis Robinson bestowed it a remarkable 19.5/20: this week’s release has been long awaited ever since.

The Unico blend combines Tempranillo with a high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, thereby producing a true synthesis between Spain’s leading variety and the best of Bordeaux. The winery was founded in 1864 by Don Lecanda y Chaves, who planted Bordeaux grape varieties, which are still used today and since 1982 the winery has been owned by the Alvarez family. The vineyards express the local terroir in its most sublime form, with many vines more than 100 years old, and amazingly their signature wines, Reserva Especial and Unico are harvested at less than one ton per acre.

The Unico produces a meagre 6,000 cases a year and the wine has a striking vintage premium, rising in price steeply in the first five years. In the last ten years four vintages have scores of 96 points or more with an average (3×75) case price of £758. This means the first tranche price of the 2004 offers real value and incentive with a 36% discount on this average and a 45% percent discount on the equal 97 point scoring 1995, something rarely apparent in Grand Cru Bordeaux. When the wine exceeds 20 years in bottle it is nearly impossible to buy and prices of leading vintages rise above £300 a bottle: the legendary 1970 vintage trades above £500 a bottle and the 1962, a candidate for one of the greatest wines ever made, costs upwards of £800 a bottle. It is worth noting also that Pingus, Ribera del Duero’s other truly great wine, trades above £500 a bottle. Therefore, compared to older vintages of Unico and Pingus (Pingus make 500 cases annually), Vega Sicilia Unico 2004 is extremely attractive on release.

Unico’s Vintage Premium 96 ≥ points (Wine Advocate):
2004, 97 – £480
1998, 98 – £740
1996, 96 – £690
1995, 97 – £870
1970, 97 – £1,500
1964, 96 – £1,800
1962, 100 – £2,400

Vega Sicilia Unico 2004 Release, 3×75 – £480 IB
Vega Sicilia spares no expense on Unico, it sees 15 months in large oak barrels followed by 25 months in new barriques, before being transferred to old barriques for 17 months and then eventually 22 months in large wooden vats, that is truly painstaking winemaking. The outcome is a wine that retains a fresh acidity that balances with the wines’ ample alcohol. It is a wonderful cherry colour, boasting unparalleled classic Tempranillo flavours, but with hints of darker more Cabernet Sauvignon fruits. The time spent in new oak provides a delectable bouquet of coconut and spices, the time spent in old casks delivers a slight oxidative evolution resulting in notes of hazelnuts, thyme, pine nuts, dill, rosemary and chalk. The sheer purity of fruit, like the Reserva Especial, is staggering, distinct and truly remarkable.

Reserva Especial 2014 Release (1994/1995/2000), 3×75 – £525 IB
We can also offer Vega Scicilia’s Reserva Especial 2014, which is a blend of the 1994, 1995 and 2000 vintages of Unico, which have received 98, 97 and 98 points respectively, so one can expect an outstanding offering here and a high score once it is tasted.

The Reserva Especial is a blend of vintages thereby embracing Spanish ageing tradition and grape varieties (80% Tempranillo combined with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon). It blends three vintages, designed to be more than the sum of their parts and selected for their individual characteristics to achieve balance. The vintage name is taken from the year of release when the estate feels it is ready.

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