Sunday, 19 February 2012

CUWS L12 - Vega Sicilia

Friday, 17 February 2012.

A tasting of Grupo Vega Sicilia wines for Cambridge University Wine Society, led by Xavier Ausas Lopez de Castro, Technical Director of Vega Sicilia. The group currently consists of four wineries (soon to be five, the latest addition being a joint venture with the Rothschilds in Rioja): Bodegas Alion in Ribera del Duero, Bodega Pintia in Toro, Oremus in Hungary, and its flagship Vega Sicilia in Ribera del Duero. The Alvarez family that owns Vega Sicilia are now proud members of Primum Familiae Vini. UK distributors are Fields, Morris & Verdin; wines below should be widely available at premium retailers.

2010 Oremus 'Mandolas' Dry Tokaji

100% Furmint. Chalky, good minerality showing; touch of spritz, fresh, whiter floral characteristics; maybe some green apples, also lemons; delightful. Fresh, clean acidity on the palate; a tad sharp but still rather fat, surprising width and generosity; lemony feel; apparently theres a little bit of oak treatment, but its seamlessly integrated.  Unfortunately short on the finish; good balance, I dont think it'll improve with time.

2008 Pintia

100% Tempranillo; no more than 12 months in 100% new oak (70/30 French/American); bottle aged for at least 2 years before release.
Dark fruit, black berry brambles; feels quite hot but also showing floral / violet notes; earthy secondary notes: gamey, cured meat and ferral, hints of dark chocolate; rustic is probably a good description of this wine. Extracted dark berries and ripe dark cherries, rather warming, woody licorice; does feel rather woody / earthy actually, grainy tannins towards the end. A big fruit driven wine, but not overly extracted or punchy, still retains a nimble balance; drink now - 2020+.

2008 Alion

100% Tempranillo; 14-18 months in 100% new French oak; bottle aged for at least 2 years before release. Bright, fresh blue berries and dark berries; vibrant aromatics going on, lifted floral notes of violets and blue bells. Lots of fruit on the palate, ripe dark berries and cherries again, good fruit expression; again showing balance, not overly extracted; tannins are ripe. Doesn't feel at all hot, freshness and bright fruit speaks volumes here, flavour concentration without sacrificing elegance; drink now - 2020+.
An interesting contrast to the Pintia above; where the Pintia is more masculine, the Alion is more feminine; while both still retains flavour intensity and balance; reminds me of stereotypical Pauillac / Margaux divide.

Valbuena is one of only three wines made by Vega Sicilia, though they stressed that Valbuena is not a 'second wine' to the Unico in the same way that say Carruades is Lafite's second wine. Typically a blend of 80-90% Tempranillo (or Tinto Fino, as they call it), the rest being made up by Merlot and Malbec. Maturation: for varying amounts of time (depending on vintage) in a combination of new French and American oak barrels, followed by a shorter time in used oak barrels, then further bottle aged before being released, which is at least 5 years after the vintage.

2006 Vega Sicilia Valbuena

Dark brooding colour. Blackberries and ripe dark plums; heady and sweet (some vanilla coming through), almost rather port like on the nose; some high notes, woody and licorice too and garrigue earthiness in the background. Lots of good extracted fruit, dark plums; textured mouthfeel; everything so far makes you think it'll be big and would knock you out, but its so smooth and silky on the palate. Concentration of flavours, nice balance in everything; tannins are ripe and grainy, only grips on the finish. Freshness and elegance even in its youth, nothing is overdone, drink now - 2025+.

2000 Vega Sicilia Valbuena

Black fruits and dark cherries, some floral tones too, but also developing a slight reductive character: meaty/ ferral and earthy, along with herbal / garrigue notes; very attractive nose. Palate is rounded, red fruits, ripe red cherries; bright and sweet fruits, still so fresh and vibrant. Good levels of acidity; so yielding on the palate, everything integrated; velvety tannins on the finish. A study in balance and poise. Drink now - 2020+.

Unico is the flagship in the Vega Sicilia range, and not made every year (not a single bottle of Unico made in 1992, 1993, 1997 and 2001, in recent decades). It is fermented and undergoes malolactic in large 8-10,000 litre French oak barrels. This is then followed by maturation in 100% new oak barrels - half French, half American, made at their own on site cooperage - Xavier likens this treatment to making the wine go to the gym / workout. It is then followed by some time in used oak barrels, for what Xavier terms the 'education' stage for all the components to integrate and mingle together. It is then further bottle aged before being released, at least 10 years after the vintage. Vega Sicilia will only release Unico when they deem it to be ready, on occasion younger vintages have been released prior to older ones.

2002 Vega Sicilia Unico

Muted nose, slowly opens up to show the fruit, theres dark fruits but not to the fore; garrigue, sweet vanilla, and secondary notes creeping up. Gentle entry; dark fruit is not to the fore, concentrated but not brash, such elegance and grace. I must admit, it isn't as powerful as I expected, though still has good concentration and definitely complexity, still a tad shy. Flavours come in waves, bigger on finish than on the entry; very long finish. Grainy tannic grip only showing at the end, gently reminding you that this is a wine for the long haul; drink 2020 - 2040+.

1996 Vega Sicilia Unico

Dark fruits there, but showing more secondary characters: garrigue and fresh herbs, some cured meats too; still fresh, with lifted floral notes of rosehips; fruits very much in the background; wonderfully complex, stops you in your tracks and makes you think. On the palate its still fresh, so lively and vibrant, lots of acidity; sour red cherries, its rather lively / exuberant, and generous on the mouthfeel. Concentrated flavours and again waves of flavour, bigger in finish than entry, velvety tannins. A contrast in style to the 2002; this is more readily welcoming and eager to please. Drink now - 2030+

1994 Vega Sicilia Unico

Voluptuous nose: red plums and red cherries, sherbet and strawberry cream almost, then garrigue / truffled nose, sweet spice and licorice; sweet cedar / sandalwood and cigar box, almost like sweet incense; so much going on, awash with secondary notes; you could spend a good ten minutes just analysing the nose. Really fresh and bright on the palate, still so much fruit of red cherries and plums; very yielding and generous mouthfeel. Such complexity, every sip showing a whole other dimension of flavour; elegant and yet expansive; waves of flavour that really doesn't finish. Majestic and awe-inspiring, truly an exceptional wine; drink now - 2030+

2002 Oremus Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos

Tinned fruits / tinned pineapples, lychee; really sweet, honey and acacia on the nose. Lots of acidity still; lively, not heavy at all; sweet citrus and pineapples, candied lemons / marmalade and a tinge of bitterness at the end. Long, but the lingering element is the acidity and not the sweetness.

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