Passing through a guarded gate, my wife and I, on an anniversary trip to Spain, entered the bucolic 1000-hectare estate of the storied Vega Sicilia. This Bordeaux-style winery, founded in 1864, originally was a small village inhabited by the wineries’ employees and connected by rail to Valladolid, 40 kilometers to the west. We walked by the façade of a chapel that was built for the employees and residents, accompanied by Puri Mancebo, Export Manager at Grupo Vega Sicilia, for a private tour of these hallowed grounds.
The Álvarez family, with Pablo Álvarez as director of the winery operations, purchased Vega Sicilia in 1982—the same year that Ribera del Duero achieved Denominación de Origen (D.O.) status. Vega Sicilia makes only three wines: Valbuena 5° is aged 5 years (the five is used to differentiate from the now extinct Valbuena 3°); Unico, made only in exceptional years, is aged a minimum of 10 years; and Reserva Especial is a house-styled blend of three vintages of past Unico releases and is an homage to the traditional-style Ribera del Duero wines. They are all celebrated examples of a special tempranillo clone with smaller amounts of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec from 200 hectares of estate vines.
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