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1967 Vega Sicilia Unico

May 5, 2016

A unique opportunity arose to taste some very old Spanish wines, in particular the tantalising prospect of a 1967 Vega Sicilia Unico, on 19 April 2016, courtesy of Kenny. I suppose “old” for this venerated estate is somewhat relative, considering that every new release of Vega Sicilia Unico has already seen ten years of bottle age, and Vega Sicilia Unico is truly renowned for its aging ability. Memories of a 1942 Vega Sicilia Unico tasted almost ten years ago are still fresh in  my mind, the wine still unbelievably vibrant, fleshy and delicious. As a prelude, we began with a 1970 Bodegas Riojanas Vina Albina Gran Riserva (courtesy of Hiok) as an aperitif, sporting a dirty faded tone of red but highly aromatic, recalling red roses, peaches and camphor with traces of varnish that seems to accompany all these old wines, still retaining good acidity with further notes of kumquat and tangerines but the fruit was clearly drying out, inevitably short, turning slightly angular an hour later.

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We moved to Otto Ristorante to begin the tasting proper, starting with a 1947 R Lopez de Heredia that was paired with the restaurant’s signature dish of foie gras and wagyu beef tagliatelle. This Rioja displayed a dense port-like character on the nose with notes of choco peppermint and some medicinal traces, weighty but alive, full-bodied and balanced, still retaining excellent acidity that imparted a certain tension and a hint of astringency, turning rather pruny and savoury towards the end of dinner. While this wine still has the legs to carry on for some time, it is clearly past its drinking peak.

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Cork of the second bottle of 1967 Vega Sicilia Unico Riserva

Next came the highlight of the evening, a pair of 1967 Vega Sicilia Unico that seemed to come from the same batch, bearing serial numbers 10600 and 10605. Both bottles showed a lowish ullage at mid-shoulder level. Twenty years younger than the preceding wine, the 1967 Vega Sicilia Unico possessed effusive red fruits and notes of coffee and mocha shrouded by a mild port-like character without the density, far more open  on the palate where the wine was medium-full with excellent acidity, though the spectrum of flavours was narrowed to strawberries and tangerines. As good as this was, the second bottle (10605) was significantly fresher even though the cork on this bottle was thoroughly soaked through and in danger of fragmenting. Amazingly beautiful, the wine showed a lovely clear ruby with bright red fruits and an attractive earthy pungency, lively and layered on the palate with lightness and delicacy, beautifully feminine, balanced and harmonious, proving once again the age-worthiness of Vega Sicilia Unico. My thanks to Kenny for the kind generosity.

We concluded the evening with a 2005 Markus Molitor Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Beerenauslese (courtesy of Jon) that exuded a smoky tone of pineapple, melons and nectarine laced with petroleum fumes, beautifully intense with controlled sweetness, precision and linearity, developing an irresistible complexity over time. Excellent.

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