Having skipped over releasing a 2001 due to frost damage, the 2002 Unico is a result of a severe selection as attested by the label which shows that just 42,932 bottles were produced instead of 108,536 in 2000. It has an incredibly intense nose, much more linear and focused than the more flamboyant 2000, with scents of dark cherry, creme de cassis and a touch of honey and melted dark chocolate. The palate is medium-bodied with a slight grainy texture on the entry, a hint of cooked meat inflecting the layers of toasty dark berry fruit. It is very harmonious and perhaps at this juncture, edgier and grittier than the millennial Unico. It is less opulent and more structured than the 2000, but is a more cerebral wine. Drink 2020-2040+. 95/100
Established in the 1860s, Vega Sicilia were the first to plant vineyards in the north central region of Ribera del Duero, a plateau that is known for its dry, sunny weather and cool nights. The combination of their traditional winemaking style, their exceptional terroir and respect for high quality has garnished them a place amongst the greatest wine estates in the world. Part of their uniqueness is imparted in their vinification/ageing methods. Fermented and aged in wooden vats, Único is then transferred into new barrels of both American and French origin before being furthered aged in older (and predominantly American) oak barrels and then finished in 180 HL wooden vats before being bottled. The total ageing time is between 6 - 9 years in both wood and bottle. This requires a huge investment in both time, dedication and money. Since 1982, the estate has been owned by the Álvarez family. They have been instrumental in guaranteeing their wines' high quality and reputation. In addition to their original estate, Vega Sicilia also own Alión, another Ribera del Duero, and Pintia, a top Toro, both of which are made with more modern methods (and with 100% tempranillo) though they still remain elegant and pure.
The Duero valley cuts a swathe across central northern Spain all the way to Portugal where it is called the Douro and is famous as the home of port. On the Spanish side, a relatively new but significant and exciting area for wine production has grown up around the city of Valladolid and was granted DO status in 1982. Ribera del Duero's potential was spotted long before in the middle of the 19th century at Bodegas Vega Sicilia, Spain's undisputed equivalent of a first growth Claret. High above sea-level, Ribera del Duero is an area of extreme temperatures with the potential to produce deep-coloured, intensely flavoured red wines from tempranillo grapes (known locally as tinto fino). The picture is not straightforward as some producers have started favouring an overly-extracted style which appeals to certain elements of the media. Additionally, often producers do not own their own vineyards, so the grape growers have a stranglehold on what to charge for their grapes and wine prices have risen dramatically as a result. However, many producers are making outstanding wines, which are still great value for money.