Vega Sicilia, Spain’s legendary winery, wines are in such high demand that even the royal household of the country receives an allocated amount annually. Spanish wine enthusiasts become extremely animated upon hearing the name Vega Sicilia, a 19th century Ribera del Duero winery, serializing in red wines exclusively.
In 1848 Toribio Leconda bought 2000 hectares of land from Marques de Valbuena to grow wheat, and on small plot of the property, grapes.
The region located approximately 160 kilometres north of Madrid, was close enough to supply the huge market of the capital of Spain.
Their chalky soils on both banks of the Duero River, and the hot sumemrs, help mature grapes perfectly. Winters are cold with a small amount of snow.
Originally, only tempranillo, the best of all Spanish red grapes, were planted, but in 1864 cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec were added to improve quality and longevity of the wines.
Toribio passed the property of to Elroy Lecanda, but he decided to sell it in 1888 due to financial difficulties.
After several owners including Luis Herrero, in 1952, a bonvivant, the Alvarez family bought the property. The winery was renovated to the highest standards of technology in 1982.
Vega Sicilia bottles its first wines in 1915 and started winning awards in 1929. The first was awarded during the Universal Exhibition in Barcelona for its 1917 and 1918 vintages,
The region was granted Denominacion d’origen status in 1982, and since then several wineries have been marketing Ribera del Duero’s deeply flavoured wines.
Today, Vega Sicilia produces several brands, the most famous of which is Vega Sicilia Unico, followed by Reserva Especial, Valbuena, and Alion. The last is blended in a specially designed winery close by, for less wealthy consumers.
Vega Sicilia line is always aged for a minimum of three years in Allier and Nevers oak barrels, minimally filtered, if at all, and bottle aged at least two years before release.
Understandably, Vega Sicilia wines are always very expensive and in short supply.
Presently, 290 hectares of the property are under vines, up from the original 120. Beside tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec, now there is a small portion of land planted with albillo, a white variety, to lighten the colour of red wines.
The winemaker Xavier Ansas works closely with Bordeaux-based consultant Pascal Chatonet.
Vega Sicilia wines are still very good condition after 60 years, if properly cellared, testimony to their legendary longevity.
The winery produces Reserva Especial bottles only in very best vintages.
1986 and 1990 are exceptional quality, and could age for at least another 40 – 50 years.
Visits to Vega Sicilia are strictly by appointment only, and access is granted only after proper documentation to security at the gate. The sister winery Alion is open to visitors.
A visit is well worth the effort, but only for wine enthusiasts who want to know more and understand what distinguishes exceptional wines from run-of-the-mill brands.
In addition to the Alion winery, the Alvares family owns Alguriz in Toro, Oremus in Tokaji, Hungary.
Ribera del Duero best vintages 1980, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1986, 1987, a1900
Vega Sicilia`s Ontario agent is Halpern Enterprises.