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Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial
Traditionally in Spain, the few wineries that bottled their wines (most sold their wines from the cask) made two types of wine with each harvest: that of the current year, and another wine without a specific harvest, which was called "Reserva Especial". It was a blend of wines from the best harvests, which came to be the most representative wine of the winery.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
The foundations of Vega Sicilia's traditions may be found as far back as 1859, when Don Eloy Lecanda Chaves was gifted an estate by his wealthy father. The origins of the Vega Sicilia winery are officially regarded as 1864, which was when Don Eloy Lecanda Chaves returned from his travels in Bordeaux with vine cuttings, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Carmenere - all of which were found in Bordeaux at that time - and, curiously, some Pinot Noir. Regardless of how Pinot Noir arrived, the cuttings were duly propagated and planted at Vega Sicilia, although the Carmenere and Pinot Noir are no longer found in the Vega Sicilia vineyards.
Vega Sicilia's Tempranillo is trained in gobelet fashion, whereas the French varieties are trained in a Guyot system. Green harvesting is employed ruthlessly in order to control yields, and the harvest itself is meticulous. In the winery, such a massive wine will withstand many years in wood and Unico sees a complicated series of rackings from huge barrels to new oak, to used American oak, back to new oak again, and on it goes. Whatever these phases are called, Unico certainly receives very prolonged barrel ageing, with the 1970 seeing over sixteen years! And yet these are not washed out, stretched, overly oaky wines when mature, testimony to the quality of the raw materials on which they are based.
-Chris Kissack, The Winedoctor
Notoriously food-friendly with soft tannins, modest alcohol, and bright acidity, Tempranillo is the star of Spain’s Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions. It is important throughout Spain as well as in Portugal, where it is known as Tinta Roriz and is an important component of Port wines and the table wines of the Douro region that Port calls home. California, Washington, and Oregon have all had moderate success with Tempranillo, producing a riper, more fruit-forward style of wine.
In the Glass
Tempranillo is often aged in new oak for the integration of spicy, woodsy, and herbal flavors, often with hints of vanilla, coconut, and dill. The grape itself produces medium-weight reds with bright red and black fruit aromas and hints of spice, leather, and tobacco, with no shortage of flavor.
Tempranillo’s modest, fine-grained tannins and bright acidity make it extremely food friendly, pairing with a wide variety of Spanish-inspired dishes—especially grilled lamb chops, a rich chorizo and bean stew, or paella.
The Spanish take their oak aging requirements very seriously, especially in Rioja. There, a system is in place to indicate on the label how much time the wine has spent in both barrel and bottle before release, which is helpful to the consumer trying to determine the style of an unfamiliar wine. Rioja can range from Joven (fresh, fruity, and unoaked) to Gran Reserva (complex and oxidized from extended barrel aging), with Crianza and Reserva in between.