I went to a great event hosted by Randalls and Negociants on Thursday the 27th with almost the entire Vega Sicilia team including the owner, Pablo Alverez, and his son, Pablo Jnr. The guys had been ensconced in the big private room out the back of the Botanical on Domain Rd, South Melbourne. To start with, the food was outstanding, a fantastic egg and truffle dish and a glorious beef cheek dish where the highlights for me. The service was also excellent, professional and friendly.
But really the main focus here was the almost complete range of wines produced by Vega Sicilia, Pintia, Alion, Valbuena and Uncio. Plus two Tokaji wines form their estate in Hungry. The only wine missing was Unico Reserva Especial.
The commitment to producing great wine is clear in every thing that they do. Apparently the guys turned up, opened and checked all the wine, checked the glasses and found a hint of something not right, so we rinsed all of our glasses in Pintia. They don't belive in second wines here, all unused grapes go off to the distillery and if its not a good year for Unico, they don't make it. In 2001 the Unico vineyards had some frost issues and the first buds were destoryed. The decision was made not to make Unico for this year, so much of the fruit went into Valbuena that year.
I had a chat to Javier Aujas, the Technical Director/winemaker for the Vega Sicilia group, about their white wine project, they planted marsanne, rousanne, viognier and chardonnay in the late 90s and have dropped the fruit each year up until 2004. In 2004 they produced a test wine, testing will continue on until 2009 and if the team believe that the wine is up to the Vega Sicilia standard they will release the wine commercially. If not, they'll stop production and move on to something else.
The comment of the night would have to go to Pablo Alverez (Snr) who was asked what other wines they drink at home and if they drink Burgudy. The answer was "Yes, white. Montrachet is very big in our house." Nice.
While it was a great night, I don’t think that these type of events are the best environment for tasting and evaluating wine. I’d prefer to have a couple of hours and half a bottle of each wine to write a good tasting note, the follow is just a brief impression of the wines on the night.
Javier Aujas talked us through each bracket of wines, the history of Vega Sicilia itself and each of the other projects. Here are the wines:
Mandolas Dry Durmint 2003 - A good start to the night, a most unusual wine that reminded me of aged riesling. I didn't look too hard at this one, just enjoyed it.
Pintia 2002 – Deep red in colour, as are all the Vega Sicilia reds. Blackberry, espresso, woody herbs and a little oak on the nose. Very smooth and integrated in the mouth, very well balanced and refined. There are some serious tannins in here with a healthy kick of acid towards the finish. 14.5% alc. 93 Pts
Pintia 2003 – Very intense nose of blackberry and ripe plums, some spice, cola with some light florals. Ripe and juicy in the mouth, showing the heat of the vintage. Very concentrated dark berry fruit, with some coffee and cola type flavours. Good finish. The 15% alc is well hidden. I think this needs a bit more time in the cellar. 91 Pts.
Bodegas Alion 2001 – Very different to the previous two wines with dark fruits (cherry and currents), roasted nuts, dried herbs, pipe tobacco and a floral aspect. Very smooth and integrated, a bit more acid than the Pintias with the classic Alion tannins. A real gem. 95 Pts.
Bodegas Alion 2002 -Very similar to the 01, however this seems much more open but slightly lacking a bit of the 01's structure. On the nose dried herbs stand out, with some dark cherry and espresso. Warm and inviting in the mouth with silky tannins. 93 Pts.
Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 anos 2000 – Dark plum, vanilla and cigar box on the nose. Plenty of pure, fresh fruit in the mouth, quite complex and structured as well. Balanced and well integrated. Looks like this will age very well. 94 Pts.
Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 anos 2001 - This is one complex wine. From here on in it is difficult to get a good sense of the wines as they change every few minutes in the glass. There is a lot of fruit from the Unico vineyards in this wine, as Unico will not be produced in 2001. Loads of red berry fruit on the nose and oak influences like roasted coffee beans, cedar and toasty oak. Dark berry fruits in the mouth with a huge finish and gorgeous tannin structure. Needs time in the cellar, but a classic wine. 96 Pts.
Vega Sicilia Unico 1994 – This has everything you could ever want in a wine, ripe fruit, great structure and complexity, perfect balance, and finish that is about a minute or so. I was lucky enough to get an extra pour of this and look at it over an hour and a half. It changed its spots a couple of times, but seemed to settle after an hour or so. A great nose of blackberry, cherries and currents with highlights of cigar tobacco, vanilla, liquorice with some truffle and rose oils. Layers of flavour on the palate, dark berry fruits, minerals, vanilla and liquorice are just a few of them. Noticeable, but great tannins. Full bodied and powerful, yet restrained with harmonious balance. A very long finish with some extra minerals. This is great wine. 97+ Pts.
Vega Sicilia Unico 1995 – Very different to the 94, a bit rounder and more open with loads of fruit and complexity. Dark fruit notes on the nose with old leather, spice, liquorice and some herby/floral notes. Very generous in the mouth, if a bit tannic at this stage. Dark berry fruit again in the mouth, with a bit of coffee/chocolate. Lacks some of the structure of the 94, but is still a great wine. 96 Pts.
Oremus Tokaji Aszu 1999 – I didn't really look at this too much, but it is a great wine none the less. Sweet, but the acid keeps things nice and fresh. A great way finish of the night.
I think the guys from Vega Sicilia got a good look at Melbourne nightlife during the night: the Botanical back bar and the restaurant were heaving with people, with a back beat of Doof-Doof later on in the night. As they where leaving, it looked like Pablo Jnr. was up for kicking on with some of the ladies in the bar. Pablo Snr had other ideas. A great night overall and one I won't be forgetting in a hurry.