Blind Tasting of Spanish Reds from Ribera del Duero
For about 100 years (since 1864), Vega Sicilia was the only wine producer of note in this region, but they made what was generally regarded as the best wine in Spain (and still is by many, though now it has some serious competitors). In recent years, however, it has become home to many of Spain’s best red wines.
We had a range of vintages including 2005, 2004, 2002, and 1998. All the wines received at least 94 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, except for one which received only a 92. Because of tight schedules, we were unable to decant these wines and since they were all from the same region and varietal, they were difficult to rank at first. All were popped and poured almost immediately. We had a great turnout with 11 people attending. Except for the absence of Corbin and Steve, we had our entire group. This meant that the pours were smaller and there was little left over to sample again, which is a shame since many of these wines really opened up right after I took the last sip.
Here are the wines and how they ranked among the group. If you’re unfamiliar with how we taste and rank you may want to read about our Blind Tasting Group Scoring Methodology.
No. 6 (50 pts.) – 1998 Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5°. Deep garnet color with no signs of age. Floral aromas yield to dark berry jam and some rather strong alcohol. Raspberry, tart cherry and even strawberry on the palate. Medium body with round tannins and a medium finish that was somewhat hot. Perhaps a bit more alcohol than I like. Also ranked as my last place wine. $125.
No. 5 (48 pts.) – 2004 Alonso del Yerro. Deep garnet and purple color. Restrained aromas of dark cherry and bacon. Flavors of blackberry, red currants, raspberry but not really that complex. Medium finish with rounded tannins but more tartness than usual. Group rank was also my rank. $30.
No. 4 (42 pts.) – 2005 Alonso del Yerro. Dark burgundy purple color. Very closed for the first hour but later opened up with aromas of smoked meat, raisins, and tar. Medium-full bodied with a velvety mouthfeel. On the palate, I got ripe cherry, blueberry, slight overextracted oak and a long finish of chocolate with firm tannins. The chocolate made this my No. 1 wine. $26.
No. 3 (33 pts.) – 2002 Alión. With colors of garnet and brick red, this was probably the most fragrant wine of the evening. Complex nose of earthy black fruit with some smoke and leather. Medium bodied and lots of dark fruit flavors with subtle oak and tobacco mid-palate. Long finish with firm tannins and good balance. My No. 2 wine but was very close to No. 1, by just a flip of the coin. $43.
No. 2 (31 pts.) – 2005 Pesquerã. Ruby color with purple edges. Bouquet of dry leaves, smoke, molasses and red fruit. Initial tannic burst mellows to flavors of cherry, oak and raspberry. Medium-full bodied with supple tannins and good acidic balance. I ranked this No. 3. $25.
No. 1 ( 26 pts.) – 2004 Montecastro y Llanahermosa. Deep garnet color. Very closed at first but later blossumed with ripe red fruit and smokiness. Medium bodied with lush flavors of ripe cherry, plum and oak undertones. Medium-long finish with good tannins and a little heat. Improved greatly after a couple hours. My rank was No. 4. $31.
It was interesting to note that the point scores produced a defined top 3 and bottom 3 wines. I was pleasantly surprised that my No. 1 wine, the 2005 Alonso, was one of the cheapest. However, I was disappointed that the oldest and most expensive wine was ranked last. For me, the tartness of the 98 Vega Sicilia suggests that the Tempranillo in this wine is better when young since Bob, our host, had one earlier that he thought was fabulous. Bob was correct that there is a lot of competition now in this region and as a result, a lot of good wines being made. In any case, all these wines were very good and I would drink any of them again. Thanks to Bob for providing the wines and hosting this tasting.