Vega Sicilia, Alion, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain, 2011
This DO is for reds and rose only, lying at about 800m altitude, on complex soils. A continental climate, and in high summer the diurnal variation can reach 20C. The wines show plenty of acidity, intense colour, fruit and flavours. Irrigation is common – to maintain quality. Vega Sicilia was the vanguard producer, demonstrating that fine wine could be made here, others have followed. Some producers blend from different vineyards, to create complexity from the undulating landscape with varying exposures. Permitted varieties in the blend are tempranillo (aka tinta fina or tinta del pais) at least 75%, with cabernet sauvignon, grenache, malbec and merlot, and the white albillo. Ageing regs are as for Rioja. Elevation to DOC was proposed, but nobody wanted it.
This wine: bottle number 111,135 of 189k bottles (with other formats of 5k magnums, 500 double magnum, and 52 imperials), varietal tempranillo, natural cork closure, 14.5% abv, £39.60, Costco (11/16)
Consumer tasting note: a strong complex nose of black berries, floral lifts, liquorice, smoke, tobacco, coming together after 30 minutes with a toasty-liquorice-black cherry palette; full-bodied with medium-high alcohol, strong yet ripe tannins which with the wine’s capability to age, will resolve further, as the flavours deepen and head towards dried berries. A long length. Decant for an hour+
WSET style tasting note
Appearance: clear and bright, deep intensity ruby, showing tears, and practically no sediment.
Nose: clean, pronounced intensity, developing, with aromas as they come, of raw steak, black currant, bit floral and perfumed – spicy peony with a little lift of violets, black cherry, low-key sweet oak, black liquorice, stewed black berries, a little herbal, a creamy nuance, a little toasty, smoky, warm rich tobacco, hints of stewed red berries – currants and cherry perhaps, in the background.
Palate: dry, medium (+) acidity, silky ripe medium (+) tannins, medium (+) alcohol, full body, medium (+) intensity, a velvety texture with a sense of sweetness in mid-palate, with flavours of ripe black cherry, black currant, black cherry jam, sweet oak in the background, touches of black liquorice and low-key toast. A long length, slightly warming, more than moderately grippy, with a creamy black fruited finish, with a slight bitterness on the end.
Quality: very good (with potential to become outstanding), tannins though ripe and in keeping with the flavour concentration, could do with a year or so to come around a little more, a very complex nose from time in wood and bottle, showing rich ripe fruit flavors along with deftly used oaky notes and tertiary notes of tobacco and stewed berry. Quite concentrated following into a rich long quite grippy finish.
Drinking readiness/ageing potential: can drink now, has potential for further ageing over say 3-5 years – a sound structure with lots of concentration together with indicative length, will improve with time to resolve tannins a little more, and the flavour palette will improve with deeper tertiary notes developing of tobacco and leaf humus, and dried berries, perhaps.