This bodega has produced many profound wines, but the 1994 Unico Reserva may be the greatest vintage released since their legendary 1970 and 1968. A truly prodigious effort, it boasts an opaque ruby/purple color as well as a gorgeously sweet, expansive bouquet of sweet cherries interwoven with black currant, truffle, licorice, and scorched earth aromas. Full-bodied, potent, powerful, and well-delineated with crisp acidity, sweet but noticeable tannin, a multidimensional, expansive, layered palate feel, and a pure yet refreshing finish, it should be a wine for the history books. Anticipated maturity: now-2035.
The 1994 Unico is a blend of 80% Tinto Fino, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Merlot (presumably 2% is unknown varieties) that was picked from September 28. It is very intense with notes of raspberry, wild strawberry and mulberry with sensational minerality and vigor. There is a Margaux-like florality to the 1994 that blossom with aeration. The palate is rounded and supple on the entry with great weight and backbone. There is real substance here, similar to the 1996. It expands in the mouth with ravishing notes of blackberry, strawberry, citrus lemon, orange peel and a touch of cedar. There is enormous weight on the finish, a behemoth of a Unico. This is very potent, but it still requires several years in bottle. 96,280 bottles produced. Drink 2019-2040.
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.