BODEGAS BENJAMIN DE ROTHSCHILD & VEGA SICILIA S.A.
Macán is an exciting partnership between Vega Sicilia and the late Benjamin de Rothschild, which started life in 2004 with a program of terroir study and land purchases. They now own 92 hectares of vineyards, many of which are tiny plots, spread across the high clay-limestone terraces of the villages of Abalos, Elvillar, Labastida, and San Vincente de la Sonsierra - a corner of Rioja Alta referred to as Rioja’s Côte d’Or.
There are two wines produced here, much like in Bordeaux, with a Grand Vin (Macán) and a Second Wine (Macán Clásico). The first releases, from the 2009 vintage, arrived in 2013 to broad acclaim, and in 2016 a brand-new winery was completed in the town of Samaniego. From a high-quality starting point, everything continues to improve, and the new facilities allow for greater precision with a focus on separate plot vinification. French (Burgundian) oak is preferred, although the Vega Sicilia Coopers are employed for the odd American oak barrel here and there, and the amount of new/oak has reduced with each vintage as they better understand their terroir.
The 2017 release of Macán Clásico is a triumph over adversity in a vintage that was amongst the toughest in living memory: a hard frost in April hit Rioja yields by around 25% on average, but Macán lost two thirds of their crop! 2017 was also a drought vintage, although disease free, and a favourable autumn brought the earliest harvest ever in the region.
A delicious, expressive 100% Tempranillo, fermented in stainless steel by plot, matured mainly in French oak (50% new) for 12 months. This feels like Bordeaux 2016 or 2019 – there is ripeness and richness, great concentration, naturally, but also finesse, precision, and focus. A stylish, wonderfully textured Rioja that will offer immediate enjoyment, and for cellaring over the short to medium-term – five to ten years from vintage.
Vega Sicilia demands no introduction, but here’s a brief run-down, in case you missed the memo!
It has long been regarded as Spain’s most prestigious wine estate, considered on par with Bordeaux First Growths and amongst the wine world’s most iconic labels. Over 150 years old (established in 1864), a pioneer in Castillo y León, and until the 1970s, when Alejandro Fernandez and his Pesquera wines exploded on to the scene, Vega Sicilia was the only property seriously representing the region. In 1982 the Ribera del Duero DO was born, and the rest is history!
Vega Sicilia has always been about meticulous attention to detail – including separate vinification by plot and variety, and a whole host of different sized and shaped oak casks and barrels (both American and French), to achieve greater complexity, harmony, and representation of terroir. They illustrate perfectly how even the greatest estates need to continue to fine-tune, evolve and improve, in fact their motto is “the best wine is still to be made”.
Here we are offering their two new releases, Único 2011 and Valbuena 2016.
Único (Unique) is the estate’s flagship wine, based on Tinto Fino (aka Tempranillo) with 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, it has spent around six years in a mix of French and American oak - 225L casks for a couple of years and 20,000L casks for another four, and then four years in bottle before release. The 2011 is incredibly perfumed and enticing, representing a slightly lighter and fresher style – something they aim to replicate in future vintages as they strive for ever greater finesse and elegance. At ten years old, this offers development and great complexity in flavour and in texture, a core of ripe black fruit, notes of smoked meat and game, and a host of cigar box and wood spice.
Valbuena 5° is a blend of 94% Tinto Fino and 6% Merlot, which spends around 12 months in oak barrels (75% French, 25% American), and another 12 months or so in 20,000L vats. The 5° bit refers to the fact that Valbuena always ages for five years before release. The 2016 also leans to the more elegant side of things, although one could say it is even more aromatically charged, and utterly beguiling. We think this sits amongst the best Valbuenas, not because it is bombastic, but because of the detailing and finesse: wonderfully fresh and pure, very fine tannins and a silky texture that will be hard to resist, although you could comfortably stow some away for another decade or so.