The Spanish next-best-thing to classed growth claret is top-end Ribera del Duero. Vega Sicilia is Spain’s most venerable fine wine and its class and high pricing makes it renowned around the world. Its relative scarcity explains the price. It is really unattainable for most wine drinkers. But don’t despair, there’s always another way to experience Vega Sicilia, and that’s through ‘Alion’ the property of Vega Sicilia planted exclusively to Tinto Fino, a.k.a. Tempranillo. It’s not a take on the traditional, fully-structured, needing-time blend which has Bordeaux varieties at the core. But instead it’s a modern expression, showcasing the finesse, detail and complexity of Ribera del Duero, with the family Vega Sicilia traits. Don’t get me wrong, it too can be hugely structured, needing time, but in comparison with the senior sibling, it’s an approachable wine.
Our friends Netty and Mo brought a bottle of 2001 Bodegas Vega Sicilia ‘Alion’ Ribera del Duero from overseas as a gift. As you can tell, they are dear friends. SWMBO and I didn’t have the opportunity of sharing it with them, but we had it at a special dinner with the Prince, the A-Prentice and the Fun Bun Girls. It was a special night, so having the wine was perfect. At just under two decades of bottle age, it was time. Still dark-red, it was indeed truly refined. Some vestiges of red fruits and sweetness remained. There was a claret-like proportion to it, but also a burgundian sweetness. And also no real intrusion from savoury secondary and tertiary development. In the glass, plenty of intricate detail, but integrated into a lovely harmonious presentation. Certainly not a showy wine, but one that quietly slipped down, whetting the palate and enhancing the roasted lamb. Looking back, it was delicious with its finesse, and we think everyone thought so too. But there was no need to shout about it.