2015 Valbuena 5°, Vega Sicilia, Ribera del Duero, Spain
The 2015 Valbuena, a red blend of mostly Tempranillo with some 5% Merlot, is released in the fifth year after the harvest. It's explosive and showy, with a complex nose that shows a mixture of flowers and wild herbs, balsamic touches and great nuance. This wine has gained in complexity since the 2010 vintage, where they implemented some changes that increased the expressivity and precision of this wine. The tannins are fine-grained and there is very good balance, and the warm conditions of the year have been absorbed well by the wine. Despite the natural conditions of the year, the wine follows the path of freshness of the 2010. 173,673 bottles, 5,625 magnums and some larger formats produced. It was bottled in June 2018.
Drink 2020 - 2029
Luis Gutiérrez, Wine Advocate (Dec 2019)
Very concentrated black fruit, powerful, a wine with an impact on the palate. It is a forceful style of Valbuena, broad, wide, with lots of ripe black fruit. The tannin is firm, I like the more robust character of this wine. It will continue to evolve for sure. Lots of flavour and a vintage that will keep for decades. It is an explosive, overwhelming style of wine.
Ferran Centelles, jancisrobinson.com (Jul 2020)
The aromas to this are so complex and enticing with nutmeg, dark berries, chocolate and white pepper. Full body. Dense and layered with so much wonderful, complex and succulent character. It just makes you want to drink it.
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James Suckling, jamessuckling.com (Sep 2020)
This is one of the best Valbuenas I've ever tasted, a still youthful cuvée of Tempranillo with 5% Merlot. Made grapes from Vega's north-facing vineyards in the western part of the Denominación de Origen, it's a refined, layered, subtly wooded red with some spice from partial American oak ageing, notes of fresh tobacco, raspberry and bramble fruit, very fine tannins and a core of acidity that's unusual in 2015.
Drink 2022 - 2035
Tim Atkin MW, timatkin.com
About this WINE
Vega Sicilia, Spain's “first growth” and most prestigious wine estate, is located in Ribera del Duero. It was founded in 1864 by Don Eloy Lecanda y Chaves, who arrived from Bordeaux with cuttings of local grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec) and planted them, together with Spain’s signature grape Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo) in the arid Ribera soils.
The winery begun building its formidable reputation after 1903 under the ownership of Antonio Herrero, winning a number of awards at home and overseas. The estate changed hands several more times before its acquisition by the current owners, the Álvarez family, in 1982.
The estate’s success is founded on its meticulous approach. In the vineyard it applies low yields, aided by green harvesting and painstaking selection at harvest. In the winery, wines are aged in any number of receptacles – using French and American, new and old oak, small barrels or huge vats – to engender further complexity. Despite prolonged barrel ageing, the fruit is never dried out or overly oaky – compelling evidence of the superb quality of its raw materials.
The Vega Sicilia range includes three cuvées: Único (literally translating as “unique”) is the flagship, followed by Único Reserva Especial (a multi-vintage blend) and their “entry-level” offering Valbuena 5° (an expression of Tinto Fino aged for five years, hence the “5°”). The top two wines are a blend of Tinto Fino with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon and/or Merlot, depending on the vintage. They are both aged for approximately 10 years prior to release, normally spending six of those in barrel and three in bottle.
This illustrious property laid the founding stone for Ribera del Duero, which is now acknowledged to be one of the best wine regions in Spain.
Vega Sicilia has now built up a portfolio which includes Bodegas Alion (providing a more modern expression of Ribera del Duero), Bodegas Pintia (in the emerging region Toro), Macán (a partnership with Benjamin de Rothschild) and the Hungarian Tokaji estate, Oremus.
Ribera del Duero
In the last 30 years, Ribera del Duero has emerged from almost nowhere to challenge Rioja for the crown of Spain's greatest wine region. Once known only as the home of Vega Sicilia it now boasts numerous bodegas of outstanding quality like Cillar de Silos, Alión and Hacienda Monasterio. Ribera del Duero was granted its DO status in 1982, at a time when only nine bodegas were operating there, yet today it has over 200 wineries and more than 20,000 hectares of vines. Most of Ribera del Duero's production is red, with only a modest quantity of rosado produced. No white wines are allowed under the DO.
Ribera del Duero owes its success to a combination of factors: firstly, its terroir of schistous sub-soil bears remarkable similarity to other famous winemaking regions such as the Douro and Priorat. Secondly, its microclimate, with its high altitude, hot days and cool nights (a phenomenon known as “diurnal variation”), ensures ripeness while preserving the vivacity of the fruit, aromatic flavours and refreshing acidity.
Thirdly, it has been blessed with an exceptional native grape, Tempranillo (also known as Tinto del País or Tinto Fino). This yields superb, complex red wines that are delicious when young but which also have the capacity to age into magnificent Gran Reservas. Finally, the immense influence of its winemakers has been key – historically, of course, Vega Sicilia, but more recently Peter Sisseck (Hacienda Monasterio) and the indefatigable Aragón family of Cillar de Silos.
The same DO rules govern Ribera's barrel-aged styles as for Rioja: Crianzas are aged for two years before release with at least a year in oak barrels; Reservas must be three years old with at least a year spent in oak; and, finally, Gran Reservas must be five years old before going on sale, with two years spent in barrel. The young (joven) unoaked red wines, called Roble, tend to boast a moreish, vibrant, bramble fruit while the best oak-aged styles of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva show intense, generous fruit, overlaid with notes of vanilla and sweet spice, and wrapped up in polished, elegant tannins.
Recommended producers: Vega Sicilia (including Alión), Cillar de Silos, Hacienda Monasterio
A high quality red wine grape that is grown all over Spain except in the hot South - it is known as Tinto Fino in Ribera del Duero, Cencibel in La Mancha and Valdepenas and Ull de Llebre in Catalonia. Its spiritual home is in Rioja and Navarra where it constitutes around 70% of most red blends.
Tempranillo-based wines tend to have a spicy, herbal, tobacco-like character accompanied by ripe strawberry and red cherry fruits. It produces fresh, vibrantly fruit driven "jovenes" meant for drinking young. However Tempranillo really comes into its own when oak aged, as with the top Riojas where its flavours seem to harmonise perfectly with both French and American oak, producing rich, powerful and concentrated wines which can be extraordinarily long-lived.
In Ribera del Duero it generally sees less oak - the exception being Vega Sicilia where it is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and then aged for an astonishing 7 years in oak and is unquestionably one of the world`s greatest wines.
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There is something slightly exotic about 2015 Valbuena with its deep, intense, blueberry-blackberry nose mixing with heady Christmas spice. The palate is wonderfully sophisticated with impressive concentration; multi-layered dark fruits tumble over each other, framed and refreshed by an edge of soft raspberries. There is a real blackcurrant cassis density to this wine, yet all is lifted by a fine seam of acidity that cuts right through its core, taking away any sense of heaviness. The tannins initially feel high but then melt away, drifting off into a pinpoint, focused precision. This still needs time for the tannins to resolve fully but, even at this youthful stage, the palate is left coated with an impression of concentrated dark fruit, liquorice and chocolate on an amazingly long, mineral, powdery finish.
This is the first Valbuena vintage of which winemaker Gonzalo Iturriaga de Juan had full control and his consummate skill is ever more clear, especially in the quality of the tannins that melt effortlessly in the mouth. The mature vines here did well in the hot, dry conditions of 2015, all factors conspiring to make this a truly exceptional Valbuena; in my opinion, this is the best vintage to date. Drink 2024-2044.
Catriona Felstead MW, Senior Wine Buyer, Berry Bros. & Rudd
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