Vega to make the ‘Montrachet of Ribera’

Javier Ausas, chief winemaker of Spanish icon Vega Sicilia, has spoken of his desire to make the “Montrachet of Ribera del Duero” at the prestigious estate.

Javier Ausas

Javier Ausas

Speaking to the drinks business during an en primeur tasting of top drop Unico 2007 at Berry Bros & Rudd yesterday, Ausas admitted that he had a tough task ahead.

“I’m determined to make the Montrachet of Ribera – it might happen in 10 years. We’ve been experimenting with a white since 1994, when we planted 20 hectares of Viognier, Marsanne, Rousanne and Chardonnay at the estate.

“We’ve trialled barrel fermenting and fermenting it in stainless steel. Everyone liked the taste of the barrel samples but it evolved too quickly in the bottle.

“One of Vega’s signatures is its ability to age so we’re keen to make an ageworthy white. We recently ripped up our white vines and might start all over again but at higher altitude, at around 900m.

“It’s more likely that the first white will come from our Rioja estate Macan, a joint venture between Vega Sicilia and Benjamin de Rothschild.”

Vega used to produce an Unico white but production stopped in the late ‘50s.

During the tasting Ausas declared that the 2010 vintage of Valbuena was the best he’d ever made, but it was too early to say the same for 2010 Unico.

Ausas put the quality of the 2010 vintage down to both “perfect” weather conditions and a new fermentation facility that allows him to vinify Vega’s different plots separately in 85 small tanks.

“My job is like a painter, and before it was like I only had one shade of blue with which to paint the sky. Now it’s like I have 50 shades of blue, so I can be far more precise in the picture I am trying to paint,” Ausas told db.

Ageing the plots separately, Ausas blends them together shortly before bottling. “The wine spends 6-9 months in oak as a blend as it’s important for the groom to know the bride before he marries her,” he said.

Speaking of the 2007 vintage of Unico on show at the tasting, Ausas was honest about how taxing the vintage was. “It was a very difficult year – we had hail and a lot of rain, what we’ve created is not a wine but a miracle,” he said.

Taking in Alion, Valbuena, Unico and Vega’s Toro estate Pintia, the company produces close to a million bottles of wine a year, leading Ausas to joke “We are a hanger winery not a garage winery.”

Vega produces around 80,000 bottles of Unico per year. The estate spans 240 hectares and boasts 19 soil types.

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