The Vega Sicilia name is fabled! Recognised globally as producing some of the finest, most sought-after and expensive wines on the planet, this is Spain's “first growth”. Bodegas Vega Sicilia was founded in the Ribera del Duero region of Castilla y León in 1864 by winemaker Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who inherited the property. He was trained in the Bordeaux region of France, and he planted several grape varieties brought from Bordeaux, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines, fruit from which are still being used to this day. These French varietals were cultivated alongside Tempranillo, which goes by the name of Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero. It is not known why the founder chose the name of his winery, but Vega refers to the green vegetation that grows along the riverbanks of the Duero, and Sicilia refers to Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians. The estate was bought by the Herrero brothers in the early 1900's and during their time at the helm Vega Sicilia became the most revered winery in Spain. In 1965 Vega Sicilia was sold to Hans Neumann, a Venezuelan from a Czech-Jewish family who decided to buy it after he had tasted the wines in New York! As he got older he wanted to retire to Caracas, and sold Vega Sicilia to David Alvarez in 1982; the year that Ribera del Duero was granted DO status. The estate remains in the hands of the Alvarez family, today headed up by David's son Pablo. They are members of the Primum Familiae Vini, an association of family-owned wineries, limited to just 12 families. 210 hectares are under vine in Ribera del Duero, where four wines are produced. Alión is produced from Tinto Fino from three separate areas of the DO. The wine is aged for between 12 and 14 months in new French oak barrels that, after this intense and complex wine is bottled, will not be used again by the winery. Juicy and opulent Valbuena 5° is the purest expression of the Tinto Fino grape, complemented by Merlot, the percentage determined by the vintage, aged for 5 years between wood and bottle in French and American new and used oak 225 litre barrels and huge 20,000 litre vats. Unico is a wine of myth, first produced in 1915, the name means “Unique” and it is certainly that! This is Vega Sicilia's flagship wine, where Tinto Fino and Cabernet Sauvignon are blended to perfection. Native yeasts are used for fermentation in wooden tanks, and then follows what is probably the longest ageing of a red wine in the world – almost 10 years between wood and bottle - again in the mix of woods used for Valbuena. This is a compelling wine with an ageing capacity only a handful of the world's wines can claim. Unico Reserva Especial is special indeed. This rare non vintage wine is a blend of many Unicos and can include grapes harvested more than 30 years apart. This honours a very old Spanish custom. Traditionally the few wineries in Spain that had bottling facilities would make two wines each year: one from the current harvest and one from a mixture of wines from which the best years had been siphoned off each harvest – these wines were called Reserva Especial.
In 1993 the Alvarez family founded Tokaj-Oremus, just three years after the fall of communism in Hungary. The winery is located in the heart of the Tokaj-Hegyalja in the north-east of the country where a modern winery was built in 1999 and here a range of complex dry and luscious dessert wines are produced.
Vega Sicilia's venture along the banks of the Duero River continued in 1996 in the Toro DO with the acquisition of Bodegas Pintia, and in 2013 a collaboration with Benjamin de Rothschild created Macán in Rioja. Everything at Vega Sicilia is done meticulously and immaculately - this iconic aristocrat of Spain is the stuff that legends are made of!