Vega-Sicilia was founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves at Valbuena de Duero, about 15 miles east of Valladolid in northwest Spain, and only a few hundred metres from the Duero river, which – if you head west for 250 miles – changes its name to the Douro and is where Port wine is made in Portugal.
“Vega” refers to the green vegetation that grows along the riverbank of the Duero; “Sicilia” refers to Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians.
Don Eloy planted cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Malbec vines that he’d obtained in Bordeaux. He also planted the local black grape Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo) in the arid soils of what is now the Ribera del Duero Denominación de Origen Protegida.
Vega-Sicilia was purchased by its fifth owner, David Álvarez, in April 1982, and it has been curated by members of his extended clan ever since. The Álvarez family made their fortune in the distinctly non-vinous activities of domestic and commercial cleaning and security.
My former colleague Hugh Johnson wrote that “Vega-Sicilia is the Latour (of Spain); but Latour of a vintage that has raisined the grapes and fried the picking crews.”
Único (“Unique”) is the signature wine of Vega-Sicilia and is released a minimum of 10 years after vintage, spending at least six years in wood and four years in bottle.
Compared to, say, aged Rioja red wines, Único is typically deeper in colour; more tannic; reassuringly acidic; and with more punch.
The 1994 Único was made from mostly Tinto Fino grapes, with a dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a relatively early harvest, which started on 28th September.
It is a wine of floral intrigue, with a distinctive, eloquent afterglow and a dexterous finish…