Valbuena 2011 – Vega Sicilia
Style: Red
Country: Spain
Region: Ribera del Duero
Grape: Tempranillo
Score: 90-94
Price: 125 euro +

Valbuena 2011 – Vega Sicilia.

Ribera del Duero remains one of our favorite wine regions in Spain, with Tempranillo being their star variety which is used to produced excellent single variety wines but also in blends. 

Vegas Sicilia is one of the most famous, if not the most famous, wineries in the region and their line of wines includes the true icon “Unico”. But besides this Spanish star there are some other notable sisters and brothers that complete the family. In this review it is time for Valbuena 5º, which is produced yearly and so to say the second wine of Tempos Vega Sicilia.

About the Winery 

Bodegas Vega Sicilia dates back to 1864 and was bought in 1982 (also the year in which Ribera del Duero became a D.O.) by the Álvarez family. Four other companies would be added down through the years to the group TEMPOS Vega Sicilia. The five are: Bodegas Vega Sicilia, Bodegas Alión, Bodegas Pintia, Benjamin de Rothschild & Vega Sicilia and Tokaj-Oremus. The first four are located in Spain and the fifth in Hungary.

Vega Sicilia was founded by Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, a Spanish winemaker who was trained in the Bordeaux wine region of France. When he returned to his homeland of Castile, Don Eloy Lecanda brought with him several Bordeaux grape varieties. When Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves first planted the vineyards of Vega Sicilia he included Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Malbec in his plantings. 

The extensive use of Bordeaux varieties was unusual in the Ribera del Duero at the time and though future plantings have focused more on Tempranillo, nearly 40% of Vega Sicilia’s vineyards are still planted with traditional Bordeaux varieties including nearly 25% planted to Cabernet Sauvignon alone.

Many of Vega Sicilia’s 250 acres are planted with old vines, some more than 100 years old, and thus usually produce a very low yield during harvest. Over its history, the winery has had many notable winemakers including Mariano García who was winemaker for 30 years before moving on to produce his own labels (Aalto, Mauro and Bodega San Roman). Today, the current winemaker is Xavier Ausás.

Vega Sicilia is noted for its patience in winemaking and willingness to hold onto their inventory and age their wines in the barrel and bottle for many years until it fits the style that the producers are looking for. Depending on the vintage, the wine could be held by Vega Sicilia for decades until it is released. For example, in 1991 the winery released both the 1968 and 1982 vintages after 23- and 9-years ageing.

About the Wine 

Valbuena has its core in Tempranillo (Tinto Fino) but is supplemented with Merlot to balance and smoothen the wine, the split varies per vintage based of the vintage character. 

In 2011 there was a change in style, as result of the grape selection for the Valbuena wines. Since this vintage the grapes are fermented plot by plot, after a deep soil study was conducted in 2010. On the Vega Sicilia estate 210 hectares are used for wine growing. There are 19 soil types divided for management purposes into 57 plots with very specific characteristics. 140 hectares are employed to produce Valbuena 5. 

In the cellar fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature with native yeast in stainless steel tanks. Malolactic fermentation also takes place in stainless steel. After fermentation, it is aged for five years, between wood and in the bottle, which is why it is called Valbuena 5º. French and American wood, new and used 225-litre barrels, 20,000-liter vats, a long and complex process for a great wine. 

In the glass a deep ruby red colour, accompanied by a perfumed nose that is a marriage between ripe fruit notes (dark and red fruit) and spices. As this wine has seen some ageing you have tertiary notes kicking in, but the manner in which they do is very controlled. On the palette balance and dept continue, delivering a round and rich body with polished tannins. A majestic wine with a strong presence and great length. In total 170,000 bottles are produced of this 2011 vintage.

In conclusion: In a not so easy vintage (very warm and difficult to preserve the needed freshness) Vega Sicilia produces a harmonious red with mind blowing complexity, nice layered and in balance. Is worth every Euro!

Side note: Since 2011 the momentum for this wine has been building up, with the last two vintages released (2016 and 2017) receiving record scores and raving reviews. Prices are going up of course but with the quality improving there is still very strong value for money here.

Price:                          €150

Taste date:                  September 2022

Score:                           94/100 DWA Score

Website:                      Vega Sicilia