Vega Sicilia, Spain’s most renowned producer, traces its roots to 1864, when Don Eloy Lecanda Chaves planted a vineyard east of Valladolid, in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. The grape cuttings were from Bordeaux and by the 1920s the estate’s wines were winning acclaim at international wine festivals. In 1982 the estate was bought by the Alvarez Diez family, which still owns and operates the nearly 300-acres property. Grapes grown are Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. Vega Siclia’s blend is generally about 70% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and the remainder made up of Merlot and Malbec. Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva and the Vega Sicilia Unico Reserva Especial, a blend of three vintages, regularly earn very high ratings from critics. Parker has called Vega Sicilia “one of the world’s most iconic wines.”
Ribera del Duero is, in the words of wine writer Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson, “the modern red wine miracle of northern Spain.” In 2012 Wine Enthusiast magazine named it the international wine region of the year. The appellation is a high, rocky plateau in north/central Spain that follows the Duero River for 60 miles before the river passes into Portugal, where it becomes the famous Douro River, then flows into the Atlantic Ocean. There are more than 60,000 vineyard acres in the appellation and only red wines are produced under appellations regulations. Low rainfall, hot days, many hours of sunlight and harsh winters produce grapes of great depth and flavor. Ribera de Duero’s reputation owes much to Vega Sicilia, a 150-year old estate known both for its excellent traditional red wines and its willingness to innovate with the times. Tempranillo, known locally as Tinto Fino, is the dominant red grape in the appellation, and it is often blended with small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or Merlot. The highly acclaimed Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez, world famous for its Tinto Pesquera, is also in Ribera del Duero. The appellation status was awarded in 1982.