Bodegas Vega Sicilia

Vega Sicilia is a winery that everybody seems to know, yet so few have drunk. In fact today, the winery is often seen to have become a myth. Interestingly, it was actually in the production of brandy and ratafias where this winery began its journey back in 1876, when the ‘Bodega de Lacanda’, as it was known then, obtained a certificate for the exquisite quality of its brandy. That same year, the winery became the supplier to the Royal House, and in 1880 received the ‘Gran Cruz de Isabel La Católica’, all before producing a red wine.

As you can see, the history of Vega Sicilia is a long and exciting one, and also perhaps the most recounted. Here at Decántalo, we would not want you to miss out on the legend that catapulted the flagship winery in Spain, and perhaps one of the most admired wineries in the world. 


The history of the winery begins at the hands of Don Toribio, a rich landowner from the Basque country who helped out Marquis de Valbuena, a Castilian nobleman who was experiencing economic hardship, by purchasing 2,000 hectares of farmland.


In 1859 the land was passed down to his son, Don Eloy Lacanda, where it was being used for livestock, fruit, as well as the sale of plaster and ceramics. 5 years later , in 1864, Don Eloy Lacanda travelled to Bordeaux to purchase 18,000 vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Pinot Noir to plant on the property along with Garnacha and Tinto Aragonés, with the aim of developing more brandies and ratafias, which lead to their success in 1876. However, he soon also began to produce wine, which lead to the winery receiving the Premio Nacional de Agricultura (National Prize of Agriculture) in 1882, for their work with and contribution to foreign grape varieties.


6 years later however, Lacanda suffered a severe crisis that lead him to sell the farm to Antonio Herrero Vázquez, who combined it with the plots of Santa Cecilia, Valdecarros and El Carrascal. From here on, the new winery went by several names: Lacanda, Hijos de Antonio Herrero, Vega Sicilia y Carrascal, and its current name Vega Sicilia.


The name ‘Sicilia’ refers to a small church of Santa Sicilia, which is situated on the estate, one kilometre away from the winery. In 1904, the Herrero family rented the farm the Cosme Palacio from Rioja, who was behind the Txomin Garramiola winery. Garramiola was a crucial figure in the history of Vega Sicilia, introducing and employing Bordeaux vinification techniques to the winery. It was here that the winery first bottled wines under the two labels that still survive today: Vega Sicilia and Valbuena, produced in a typical Riojan fashion, with long ageing in barrels and bottled following demand, rather than in bulk.


Years passed and although the 1917 and 1918 harvests reached maximum potential, as well as winning awards such as the Universal Exposition in Barcelona in 1929, the winery was still not profitable, therefore Herrero sold the estate in 1951 to Prodes, a seed company. The company Bodegas Vega Sicilia S.A. was then set up and it was then that another of the most important figures in the history of the winery, Jesús Anadón, would emerge. However 15 years later in 1966, the winery was bought by Venezuelan businessman Hans Neumann, when he tasted and fell in love with the wineries wines in New York, although he rarely visited. After making an offer, the Alvarez family acquired the winery and the vineyards of Vega Sicilia. At that time, Jesús Anadón retires, with Pablo Alvarez taking full possession of the general direction of the winery, while the oenological area was left in the hands of Mariano Garcia – aid to Anadón – who after 20 harvests would go on to found his own winery, Mauro.


Under the leadership of the Alvarez family, the 1987 vintage saw the introduction of one of the wineries historic house wines, the Valbuena 3º Año. The winery also saw its vineyards expand, over time reaching its current 200 hectares, and Mariano Garcia began to modernize the house wines with shorter ageing times. From then, the winery began to took hold of the market, nationally and internationally, acquiring in 1992 the Bodegas Liceo, now known as Bodegas Alión, with international expansion beginning with the purchase of the Tokaj Oremus winery in Hungary. These were the two first wineries to belong to the Tempos Vega Sicilia Group, where Xavier Ausàs assumes the technical direction of the group of wineries, after working six years as winemaker at Vega Sicilia. 


At the beginning of the new millennium, the group of wineries expanded with the purchase of Bodegas Pintia in Toro, and in 2009 they began to produce wines in the DOC Rioja, in collaboration with the Rothschild family, who own part of the legendary Château Lafite and other wine properties around the world, splitting production 50% between Bodega Benjamin de Rothschild & Vega Sicilia.


Over the years, taking slow and steady steps, Vega Sicilia released in 2010 what is probably the wineries most modern and elaborate design, a map of all the soils on the estate, an outstanding job of reflecting the different plots of vineyards. David Alvarez Díez, the president and founder of the Eulen and Bodegas Vega Sicilia group, passed away in November 2015, with his son Pablo Alvarez taking over as CEO of Vega Sicilia.

The latest part in the Vega Sicilia story is the exit of winemaker Xavier Ausàs in mid-2015 after 24 vintages at the winery, as well as the incorporation of Gonzalo Iturriaga as the new technical director, from Madrid to Riojan parents, who had worked in his youth at the Ribera del Duero Alonso del Yerro winery; then as a winemaker at Bodegas Habla for five years in Extremadura, and later as export manager of Lamothe-Abiet, a trading company in oenological products.


 


The Property


Vega Sicilia currently spans across 970 hectares of land, and is home to over 200 hectares of vineyards, located in the recesses of the southern slope of the Duero basin, between Valbuena and Quintanilla, just two hundred metres from the winery. The vineyards are home to numerous grape varieties, although the Tinto Fino variety dominates, accounting for over 85% of production. Other varieties include, Albillo, as well as those of Bordeaux origin, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, which were planted on the farm over a century ago, acclimatizing over the years, with now a very well established ecosystem in place. Many of the vines follow a Mediterranean model and are cultivated on goblet trained vines, while some follow the Atlantic model, with large parts of the vineyards grown on trellises.


The winery has been extended twice, in 1970 and 1982. Its façade is made of Castilian brick, in a monastic style. Within the estate there is a chapel which is over 100 years old. Today the winrey is home to advanced production premises, equipped with 81 tanks to help vinify each plot and vineyard independently, cold rooms, sophisticated selection tables, machines designed to work by gravity and place the grapes directly in each deposit. The winery uses American oak barrels, none of which are over six years old, which are also made in the house, using the new, mechanized and effective cooperage at the winery.


 


Work Philosophy.


One of the most important factors for Vega Sicilia when it comes to producing their wines is the vineyard. As an example of their hard work and attention, metals fans are arranged around the vineyards to help prevent frosts.


The more than 200 hectares surrounding the winery have been subjected to a thorough analysis and clonal selection of varieties for more than a decade, which has resulted in a complete map of soils with 19 different types, spread across 50 distinct plots.


This geographical diversity has been reflected in production at the winery, where they have increased their number of production tanks from 20 to 90, two thirds of which are stainless steel, while the rest are oak, with the aim of vinifying each plot independently. From a technical point of view, working with 50 different plots for the final blend can further refine the quality, although the production process remains intact.


Also, the winery has also been taking advantage of the excellent results of cold refrigerating rooms for the grapes, which were installed in 2001 in the Pintia winery in Toro, which makes way for wines with stronger aromatic components, flavour and colour. Once the bunches, which are identified by their origin, have reached the required temperature, they pass through a selection table, to certify and check that the work carried out at the vineyard has been perfect.


From here, the grapes are destemmed and the skins are separated, where they then turn to another selection table, where grapes that are in bad condition are removed. Following this, the grapes pass into small deposits, where exactly 500kg are poured using a rail system into 6,000-8,000 litres fermentation tanks, although there at although 500-1000 litre tanks for small scale vinification, as well at 22 large wooden vats.


This is where alcoholic and malolactic fermentation are carried out. Following this, the wines are aged,using another of the most striking features of the new winery: a large deposit-lift where there is only one worldwide in Château Cos d'Estournel (Bordeaux), which moves the wine by gravity, respecting the system verticality of the traditional wine cellars, where the used of pumps is avoided as they can damage the product.


After the vinification process has been carried out, all of the wines are kept in large wooden vats until, after tasting, they are destined for what will be their cuvées. After this phase, all of the wines be placed in new barrels, to gain tannins and storage capacity, where they are decanted again into used barrels, to integrate the wine with the wood. They are then decanted again to large stainless steel vats to regain their fruity qualities. This process continues for three years in the case of Valbuena 5º and between six and nine years, depending on the vintage, for el Único. The wine is then bottled at the winery, where it remains to refine.


Vega Sicilia has always been concerned with protecting the environment, where their new buildings and constructions comply with the highest international standards (ISO 14001). Thus, there is separation between sewage, and between waste from cleaning and disinfection products, never coming into contact with each other as to avoid contamination. Likewise, all solid waste such as plastics or paper that have been in contact with raw materials (barrels, pesticides) are compacted and deposited in a ‘clean spot’, where they are collected and dealt with by companies who specialise in their treatment.



The Wines by Vega Sicilia


The wines of Vega Sicilia need no introduction. Currently the winery produces three different wines, the red reserva Valbuena 5º, which is not placed onto the market until its fifth year, Vega Sicilia Unico after 10, and Vega Sicilia Reserva Especial, which is released after the youngest of the three vintages used has surpassed 10 years.


Valbuena 5º. Valbuena, is the purest expression of the Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) in Vega Sicilia. Tinto Fino is clearly the predominant wine in the assemblage of the varieties that make up this magnificent wine. The other variety used is Merlot, which is added to a greater or lesser extent depending on the vintage. The Valbuena Tempranillo is obtained from plots located on gentle concave slopes that descend from the wasteland. Those soils are made up of material that was eroded and accumulated as colluvial on the lower slopes, developing a high profile soil, with a specific important evolution with the formation of a deep calcic horizon.Valbuena provides us with a direct and understandable view of the greatness of this "terroir” with the direct influence of each vintage. Its production remains unchanged meaning that it is each year's weather factors that mark the differences between the different harvests. Fermentation at a controlled temperature with native yeast in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation also takes place in stainless steel. After fermentation, it is aged for five years, between wood and in the bottle, which is why it is called Valbuena 5º. French and American wood, new and used 225-litre barrels, 20,000 litre vats.


Vega Sicilia Único. The Vega Sicilia flagship. This wine is made with Tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon in different proportions depending on the vintage, as well as a small percentage of Merlot and Malbec, all of which bring a unique style. The vines are grown on plots where the land is located at the point between the slopes down from the wasteland and the alluvial plain. The soil nearest the surface is made out of fine colluvial deposits from the hillside with small fragment of limestone. There is abundant quartz gravel deeper down in a sandy main soil. There are many angular limestone boulders on the surface. Red wine made in controlled fermentation using native yeast in wooden tanks. Malolactic fermentation also takes place in wood. After its fermentation, its goes through what is probably the world's longest ageing of a red wine, almost 10 years between wood and bottle. The different stages take place in different types of barrel: American and French wood, new and used 225-litre barrels, 20,000-litre vats, each batch is what determines the type of wood and the time spent in each container. After the stage in the wood, it is aged in the bottle to complete a long and complex ageing process. It will normally spend 6 years in wood and three in the bottle.


Vega Sicilia Único Reserva Especial. This red wine has no vintage and it is the tribute to tradition. The winery here sought to continue a very old Spanish custom and also to combine the balance between vintages. Traditionally, in Spain, the very few wineries that had a bottling process prepared two types of wines in each harvest: the one of the current year and another wine without a specific harvest, which they called "Reserva Especial”. It was a mixture of wines from the best harvest from which the most representative wine of the winery was siphoned off. The Reserva Especial is the wine with the greatest personality, it combines the complexity of the Único multiplied by different vintages and provides us with a huge range of aromas, pure elegance in a never-ending flow through the magic of a myth. Only the best Únicos are used to produce Reserva Especial; a mix of years, virtues, experiences and sentiments that serves only to profile the most profound essence of a unique and unrepeatable style, the Vega Sicilia style. 

Featured wines from Vega Sicilia:

  • Valbuena 5º Año 2011

    Red wine Gran Reserva. 18 months in bottle and 42 months in French and American oak barrels. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Vega Sicilia. Production area: Ribera del Duero. Grapes used in this wine: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and Tempranillo.

    • Parker 94
    • Peñin 96
    95,50 VAT incl.
    6x
    92,50 €/u
    Units
    Buy
    Online only
    Valbuena 5º Año 2011

    Red wine Gran Reserva. 18 months in bottle and 42 months in French and American oak barrels. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Vega Sicilia. Production area: Ribera del Duero. Grapes used in this wine: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and Tempranillo.

    • Parker: 94
    • Peñin: 96
    95,50 VAT incl.
    6x
    92,50 €/u
    Online only
  • Vega Sicilia Único 2008

    Red wine Gran Reserva. 72 months in French oak barrels. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Vega Sicilia. Production area: Ribera del Duero. Grapes used in this wine: Cabernet Sauvignon and Tinto Fino.

    • Parker 96
    253,00 VAT incl.
    Units
    Buy
    Online only
    Vega Sicilia Único 2008

    Red wine Gran Reserva. 72 months in French oak barrels. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Vega Sicilia. Production area: Ribera del Duero. Grapes used in this wine: Cabernet Sauvignon and Tinto Fino.

    • Parker: 96
    253,00 VAT incl.
    Online only
  • Vega Sicilia 2015 Unico Release Reserva Especial

    Red wine Reserva. 48 months in oak barrels. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Vega Sicilia. Production area: Ribera del Duero. Grapes used in this wine: Cabernet Sauvignon and Tinto Fino and Merlot.

    • Parker 96
    335,00 VAT incl.
    Units
    Buy
    Online only
    Vega Sicilia 2015 Unico Release Reserva Especial

    Red wine Reserva. 48 months in oak barrels. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Vega Sicilia. Production area: Ribera del Duero. Grapes used in this wine: Cabernet Sauvignon and Tinto Fino and Merlot.

    • Parker: 96
    335,00 VAT incl.
    Online only
  • Valbuena 5º Año 2010

    Red wine Gran Reserva. 18 months in bottle and 42 months in French and American oak barrels. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Vega Sicilia. Production area: Ribera del Duero. Grapes used in this wine: Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo and Merlot.

    • Decántalo 96
    • Parker 96
    • Peñin 98
    95,50 VAT incl.
    6x
    92,50 €/u
    Units
    Buy
    Valbuena 5º Año 2010

    Red wine Gran Reserva. 18 months in bottle and 42 months in French and American oak barrels. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Vega Sicilia. Production area: Ribera del Duero. Grapes used in this wine: Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo and Merlot.

    • Decántalo: 96
    • Parker: 96
    • Peñin: 98
    95,50 VAT incl.
    6x
    92,50 €/u
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