Bodegas Vega Sicilia Unico Tinto 2009
The bedrock is schistous: the same rock that underlies the Port vineyards of the Douro further downstream. The topsoil is chalk-based, very pale and quite sandy.
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Unico is a selection from Vega-Sicilia’s top benchland parcels of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon, both varieties part of the original plantings at the estate in the 19th century. The contemporary vines, now an average of 35 years old, are rooted in rocky limestone and quartz gravels at the south end of the estate, with a cool northern exposure; the fruit of those vines ferments spontaneously in wooden vats, then ages in oak barrels for five years, and for more time in bottle. With ten years of age, this 2009 is youthful and dynamic. Beyond the initial scents of oak, you’ll find brisk, tart red cherry and boysenberry fruit energized by the Mediterranean warmth of the tannins. Complex and savory, it’s compelling to drink now, yet will gain beauty with age.
The warmth of the 2009 vintage is apparent from the start—the nose is warm and murky, with raisiny fruit. On the palate, this is thick and rich, with prune notes. Flavors of cassis, prune, raisin and chocolate are smooth and rich, while this is dense on the finish. If you’re looking for suave elegance, it’s not here.
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
Ribera del Duero is located in northen Spain’s Castilla y León region, just a 2-hour drive from Madrid. While winemaking in this area goes back more than 2000 years, it was in the 1980s that 9 wineries applied for and were granted Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status. Today, more than 300 wineries call Ribera del Duero home, including some of Spain’s most iconic names.
Notable Facts Ribera’s main grape variety, Tempranillo, locally know as Tinto Fino, is perfectly suited to the extreme climate of the region, where it must survive scorching summers and frigid winters. Low yields resulting from conscientious tending to old vines planted in Ribera’s diverse soils types, give Ribera wines a distinctive depth and complexity not found in other Tempranillos. Rich and full-bodied, the spice, dark fruit and smoky flavors in a bold Ribera del Duero will pair well with roasted and grilled meats, Mexican food and tomato-based sauces.
Notoriously food-friendly, long-lasting and Spain’s most widely planted grape, Tempranillo is the star variety of red wines from Rioja and Ribera del Duero. The Rioja terms Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva indicate both barrel and bottle time before release. Traditionally blended in Rioja with Garnacha, plus a bit of Mazuelo (Carignan) and Graciano, the Tempranillo in Ribera del Duero typically stands alone. Somm Secret—Tempranillo claims many different names depending on location. In Penedès, it is called Ull de Llebre and in Valdepeñas, goes by Cencibel. Known as Tinta Roriz in Portugal, Tempranillo plays an important role in Port.