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Some wines from Vega Sicilia

Show all 14 wines

Appellations Vega Sicilia

Definition Vega Sicilia

Spain’s most celebrated wine estate.

History Vega Sicilia

The estate was founded in 1864 by Eloy Lecanda. Although it changed hands many times in its history, it could always keep its identity and a touch of class.

Everything really started in 1848 when Toribio Lecanda, a Basque, bought the 2,000 hectare estate (!) from the Marques de Valbuena.

But it was Toribio’s son, Eloy, who decided to make wine there, in 1864.

So he went to Bordeaux and brought back some 18,000 plants of vine - Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Malbec, Merlot and even Pinot Noir.

When he planted them on the estate, people thought it was a folly; at that time, the estate’s income came essentially from cattle, orchards and ceramics.

Soon the Lacanda family found itself in dire straits; and a new investor stepped in: the Herrero family. 15 years later, Antonio Herrero Velázquez came into possession of the whole estate. In 1905, Txomin Garramiola took over the management. This Basque was employed by the Bodega Cosme Palacio, in Rioja. Palacio could not supply enough wine to its customers in Bilbao (the most important wine market of those times), because of the phylloxera; so to ensure new supplies, he asked Vega Sicilia if they would be willing to lease the estate for 10 years; a contract was signed with Antonio Herrero’s sons, who had been managing the estate since 1901. Palacio appointed Txomin as trustee and entrusted him with the winemaking. The wine had to be in line with those Palacio’s clients were accustomed to – a Riojan style, thus, with a long ageing and bottled when the orders were placed, not before. The wine estate takes the name of “Bodegas de Lecanda”.

At the end of the lease, in 1915, when the estate got back into the firm “Hijos de Antonio Herrero”, the three Herrero brothers convinced Txomin to stay at the head of the winery. For them, the prestige of the property demanded that it would continue to produce wine.

From then on, Txomin began to make wine the way he wanted, not only wine to compensate for the shortage of Rioja. This is how the Vega Sicilia Unico and the Valbuena were born.

The Herreros belonged to the upper circles of the Spanish aristocracy and industry. The bodega was losing a lot of money, but the other activities of the farm could offset the losses. Vega Sicilia was not meant as a commercial wine. It was not for sale, it was part of the family prestige. You could not acquire it with money, only with friendship. If you were not intimate with the Herreros and wanted to buy a bottle, the price they would ask was unaffordable.

So the myth of Spain’s most expensive wine was born. It was a great success in the 1920’s, all over Europe. In 1933, Txomin died. In 1953, the estate was sold to Prodes, a seed company. The enthusiasm of the Herrero area was soon forgotten. Until the arrival of Jesús Anadón, who managed the estate until it was sold again to the current owners, the Alvarez Family, in 1982. This was the best thing that could ever happen to Vega Sicilia. The Alvarez family owns the Eulen group, one of Spain’s largest companies, active in cleaning and surveillance, amongst others. When they bought the estate, it was a mere investment, a diversification. They never regretted it – they even went on investing heavily in the wine sector.

At the head of the Vega Sicilia group is Pablo Alvarez. Since 1998, its technical manager has been oenologist Xavier Ausas. Vega Sicilia has never been more alive!

Varieties

The estate comprises 1,000 hectares, 250 of which are under vine. 200 hectares are Tinto Fino, the rest being divided between Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec.

The yield is carefully limited to 22 hl/ha (around 2 kg of grapes per plant). Grapes are not harvested before they reach 13% of alcohol potential. The plantation density is 2,200 plants per hectare. The oldest vines are used for the Unico, the others for the Valbuena. Contrarily to the Unico, the Valbuena contains more Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon.

Terroir

The whole region has soils of clay and limestone; part of it is on alluvial soil (sand and pebbles) between the estate and the banks of the Douro.

The climate is continental with some Atlantic influences. Rainfall is low (never more than 500 mm) with 2,200 hours of sunshine per year.

The nearby Douro has a cooling effect on the vines, thanks to the morning dew, especially.

Winemaking

Harvesting is done by hand.

The alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks for the Valbuena, in large wooden vats for the Unico. The malolactic fermentation takes place in large concrete tanks for the Valbuena, in large wooden tanks for the Unico.

A large proportion of the barrels used at Vega Sicilia are made in the estate’s own cooperage, mainly with American oak, previously dried for at least three years. The master cooper only starts using the wood when its humidity is less than 12%.

The ageing of the wines begins in January, first in the large vats, then in new oak barrels: approximately three and a half years for the Valbuena,and a minimum of 7 years for the Unico. Meanwhile, the wines are transferred into older barrels, so that they find their balance. When this is done, they are poured back into large vats.

After bottling, the Valbuena still stays for one year and a half at the estate, in perfect storing conditions, before it is released on the market.

The Unico stays there for at least three years (often more for the larger bottle formats).

The motto at Vega Sicilia: to make a great wine, patience is needed.

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