The blend justifies the means

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 August, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 August, 2012, 11:14pm


Vega Sicilia is undoubtedly one of Spain's most prestigious and iconic wineries, one that competes with Bordeaux estates in terms of the quality and ageing capacity of its wines. The winery is in Ribera del Duero, in north-central Spain.

Vega Sicilia was founded in 1864 by visionary winemaker Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who returned from Bordeaux with vine cuttings of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and pinot noir. The winery broke with tradition and blended the French varieties with what remains the region's main grape, tempranillo (or tinto fino).

Vega Sicilia set a new benchmark, and today this practice is carried on by the Alvarez family, who bought the winery in 1982.

Vega Sicilia Unico 2002

This is the winery's flagship. 'Unico' means unique, and it proves to be an apt description for this wine. The Unico is of Gran Reserva level, meaning that by local regulations the wine must be aged for at least five years, of which two must be spent in oak before release. The maturation process is complicated and long. The 2002 vintage was aged in large vats for 17 months, then transferred to new small barrels for 23 months, then back to used barrels for 10 months and back to the vats for the last 20 months. These wines have an ageing capacity that matches and may even surpass that of the top Bordeaux wines. The 2002 is made from 95 per cent tempranillo and 5 per cent cabernet sauvignon.

Wonderful aromas of chocolate, vanilla, black fruit with a hint of spice. Full body, velvety on the palate with fruit intensity, firm tannins and a long finish. Youthful with a long future ahead. HK$2,455

Valbuena 5o 2007

The 5o on the label indicates it has been aged for five years. This wine is of at least a Reserva level, meaning that wines must be aged for at least three years, one of which must be spent in oak. The 2002 has been aged in a combination of large vats and new American and French barrels. The blend is 90 per cent tempranillo and 10 per cent merlot.

Blackcurrant, hints of mint and spice. Medium body, with notes of cherry, balanced tannins. Showing some development, although still young with vibrant cherry and blackcurrant notes. Potential for cellaring for at least 10 years. HK$865

Alion 2008

The Alvarez family acquired this estate in 1991, and the first vintage was produced in 1995. The wine can be described as revolutionary in its modern style and a significant departure in philosophy from the traditional Vega Sicilia. Made from 100 per cent tempranillo and aged in 100 per cent new French oak.

Vibrant blackcurrant notes with a minty edge and touch of earthiness. Moderate fruit intensity on the palate and firm, slightly drying tannins on the finish. Easy to drink, more international style without Vega Sicilia's complexity. HK$388

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