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February 06, 2015

Vega Sicilia Valbuena and Alion 2010 Releases

Vega.Sicilia.1 (1)

Vega Sicilia is the most significant wine producer in Spain, considered amongst the greatest in the world. Their property is found 700 metres above sea level in the shallow Spanish part of the Duero river valley on the high remote plateau of Castilla y Leon. This unique climate delivers cold nights and hot days allowing the grapes to become beautifully ripe and develop wonderful tannic structure, with a delightful backbone of acidity and therefore superb balance.

2010 has become a legendary vintage throughout Europe and this is true of Ribera del Duero. 2010 was exceptional in the Ribera del Duero, experiencing perfect growing conditions, with no excessive weather changes, uniform quality and wines with incredible ripeness and balance. It is already being considered one of the greatest ever vintages, as promising if not more so than the 2004. The magnificence of the vintage is reflected in the Valbuena receiving 96 points and the Pintia 95 points, their highest ever.

The Valbuena is released after five years, three spent in cask and two in bottle; the Unico is typically released after ten years. It is aged in new barrels, 50% French oak, imparting, vanilla, toast and brioche and 50% in America oak, adding coconut and spice. Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) forms the backbone of Vega Sicilia’s wines, a grape with great resilience to oxidation. The Valbuena is made from 95% Tinto Fino and 5% Merlot, from vineyards that boast no yields exceeding 32 hectolitres per acre with vines between 25 and 30 years old.

The 2010 Valbuena displays powerful, ripe aromas, with effortless notes of strawberries, redcurrant, blueberry, plums, damsons and wonderful floral high notes of violets. The palate bursts with forest fruit, red cherries, boasting wonderful power, balsamic notes, it displays incredible ripeness, vibrant acidity and memorising balance. The 2010 Valbuena is a superb effort, their best ever. If you want to experience the grandeur of the Unico at a more affordable level the Valbuena is the perfect choice. Its 96 points outscore the majority of Vega Unico vintages and they cost three times more.

Vega Sicilia was founded in 1864 and they launched their two iconic wines in 1915, becoming the most aristocratic wine estate in Spain. In 1997 they purchased the Pintia vineyard, which had resulted from years of research looking for a truly great plot in Toro. When they purchased Pintia the vines already boasted an age of 40 years plus and their plan was to make a different style of wine from this region, a modern style using all of their savour-faire. From 1997 they began experimental vinfication, installing a state of the art vinification and ageing facility. The Estate wanted to create a harmonious wine by avoiding green aromas, yet not going to the other extreme, over ripe flavours. To do this they installed a cooling room used prior to fermentation and decided never to allow fermentation to exceed 28 degrees to protect aromas; the norm is 31-33 degrees in the Ribera del Duero.

The wine is 100% Tinta de Toro, a superior local clone of Tempranillo. The Estate is known for is commitment to quality and it was not until 2001 that they released their first vintage, but only 80,000 bottles.  No expense is sparred for Pintia, which sees 100% new oak, 70% in French and 30% in American. One can understand why, Pablo Alvarez, the proprietor, sets high standards and aims for Pintia to become the Vega Unico of Toro. The result of this is a wine of incredible power and elegance which has been critically acclaimed for a decade. The winemaker Xavier Ausas sums up their achievements proudly, ‘we have managed to tame the Toro’ - this is a truly great wine.

Where it departs from Vega Unico and Valbuena is the price, at £135 a case of six bottles, you are getting a case for the equivalent of one bottle of Unico. We have had several older vintages and this wine is utterly superb, offering incredible value for £22.50 a bottle, or £29.46 duty and VAT paid. This gives the wine a Price Over Points Ratio (POP) of 18, remarkable value from this Estate. They could command a much higher price on release but want to leave value for collectors. Vintages rise in price quickly with an appealing vintage premium:

2010 95 £135
2009 94 £150
2008 95 £160
2007 93+ £150
2005 95 £220
2004 94 £225
2001 95 £250

 
Both wines provide a first opportunity to secure Vega Sicilia’s stable from the great 2010 vintage. The 2010 Vega Unico wont be released for another six years. We released the 2007 Unico, ahead of the 2005 this week, to see this offer click here.

Vega Sicilia Valbuena 2010 3×75 – £195 IB or £241.38 incl. duty and VAT

Neil Martin, Wine Advocate, 96 points
“Since the 2010 harvest, they ferment plot by plot, and it shows. This Valbuena has almost 100 components in it, smaller lots, all of them corresponding to a plot of vines. It has all the signs of being one of the best vintages ever for this second wine from Vega Sicilia [the]… 2010 seems to have the exuberance of the 2011 and the seriousness and elegance of 2009…This wine has gained in precision and sharpness, and is very pure with delineated aromas and flavors. It is a world-class wine, possibly the best Valbuena ever. 180,000 bottles and some bigger-sized formats were filled. The wine will be released in 2015.” Drink 2016-2025.

Vega Sicilia Pintia 2010 6×75 – £135 IB or £176.76 incl. duty and VAT

James Suckling, 95 points
“The 2010 Pintia had already been bottled when I tasted it, although not released. The bouquet is very Bordeaux-like with black rather than red fruit, fine minerality and touches of graphite and cedar. The palate is medium-bodied with plump, rounded tannins, a firm structure and great precision on the finish. This is what you might call a “classic” Pintia that already demonstrates great breeding and sophistication toward the finish. 

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