Vega Sicilia, Spain's "first growth"; and most prestigious wine estate, is located in Ribera del Duero, beside a highway east of Valladolid. The estate covers around 1000 hectares, of which 230 - 250 are under vines. It was founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of local grapes (Cab. Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec) and planted them, together with Spain's signature grape Tinto Fino (clone of Tempranillo) in the arid Ribera soils.
The winery begun building its formidable reputation after 1903 under the ownership of Antonio Herrero, winning a number of awards, and enjoying an international distribution. The estate changed hands several more times before its acquisition by the current owners, the Alvarez family, in 1982.
Vega Sicilia has founded its success on its meticulous wine-producing practices: In the vineyard it applies low yields, aided by green harvesting, and a painstaking grape selection. In the winery, wines undertake a complicated series of rackings from huge barrels to new and old oak. Despite the very prolonged barrel ageing, e.g. the 1970 Unico has over 16 years, the wine flavours are never dried out or overly oaky when mature, which is compelling evidence of the superb quality of its raw materials.
The Vega Sicilia range includes 3 cuvees: Unico (";unique";) is the flagship, followed by Reserva Especial a blend of top vintages, both made up of Tinto Fino ( 80%), Cab. Sauv and little Merlot, and traditionally of 10 years ageing. Nowadays the wine maker, Javier Ausas ages the Unica wines for only 5-6 years, before bottling.
Valbuena is made from younger vines, and in years when Unico is not produced grapes normally destined for Unico will go into Valbuena. It is only released after 5 years' ageing. Spain's "Chateau Latour" has illustrious history, a sense of place, immense respect for tradition and immaculate winemaking. It has laid the foundation for what has become one of the best wine-making regions in Spain, Ribera del Duero.