Ribera del Duero

Vega Sicilia

Few wines have a history as distinguished as that of Vega Sicilia. Founded in the 1860’s, its top cuvée, Unico, was Spain’s first great wine and until recent decades the only Spanish wine collected and coveted throughout the world.

Unico is still made as it was a half century or more ago: a selection of only the best vintages released after a decade or more of age. Made from at least 80% Tempranillo and small amounts of Bordeaux varietals, it is a wine of epic proportions, known for great restraint in its youth but an almost unlimited cellaring potential.

A Historic Estate

It was here in Ribera del Duero, two hours from Madrid, that Tempranillo proved its potential for greatness. When Vega Sicilia’s original founder, Don Eloy Lecanda Chaves returned from France with cuttings of Bordeaux varietals, he planted them alongside the indigenous variety, then known simply as Tinto del Pais, or “Country Red”, but today known as Tinto Fino or Tempranillo. Surprisingly, it was the Tempranillo that produced the superior wine.

By the early part of the twentieth century, word had spread about this remarkable wine from Northern Spain. And when the 1917 and 1918 famously took prizes at the 1929 World’s Fair in Barcelona, its reputation soared. The owners insistence on deciding who should get his wine spurred its long run of mystery and exclusivity. Eventually, the wines were made available to the world, and Vega Sicilia became an enduring symbol of taste for upper class Spaniards living throughout the world.

 In 1982, the estate was purchased by the Alvarez family, who brought with them modern business acumen and vast resources but also a great respect for Vega Sicilias winemaking traditions. And indeed much of Vega Sicilias global reputation was forged in the 1980s and early 1990s, a time of abundance for lovers of the estates wines. Classics like the 1962, 1964, 1966, 1968, 1970 and 1975 Unicos were all readily available. Rarities like 1942 and 1948 were there for the asking, and the estates other wine, Reserva Especialmade from a blend of vintagesincluded wines up to 35 years old.

Today’s Market

Today, the market for Vega Sicilia is one of scarcity and increasing demand. The great, old vintages of Unico that were so easy to find in the early 1990s have largely vanished from the market and their prices have soared. Even recent vintages of Unico—released only when they are at least ten years old—bring $300 to $400 a bottle, while the estate’s fine second wine, Valbuena, has acquired a loyal following of its own.

Vega Sicilias growing fame and desirability is testament not only to the estates enduring legacy but to the worlds craving for wines of history and noble bearing. Vega Sicilia Unico, Reserva Especial and Valbuena are such wines.

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