Bodegas Vega SiciliaHistory, savoir-faire, passion & tradition

Discover the history of the bodegas, its wines, passions & tradition. Anna Caidan meets Antonio Menéndez (Managing Director sales & marketing) and Gonzalo Iturriaga (Technical Director) at Vega Sicilia
2019-04-01
Wine story

What could you tell me about the History of Vega Sicilia?

Antonio Menéndez:

‘Vega Sicilia was founded almost 155 years ago, in 1864 by a Basque citizen, Eloy Lecanda from the North part of Spain. He founded Vega in Valladolid, where it is located now, and at that moment it was a place where no one had cultivated any kind of grapes. He owned the winery for approximately forty years, until the beginning of the last century, when the winery was sold to the Herrero family who were basically bankers from close to Valladolid. They owned the winery until around the 1950s, when the winery was sold to an industrial group who commercialised to make the wine. In 1962, the winery was sold to a guy from Venezuela. This is the earliest date in the history of Vega Sicilia where the company did not belong to a Spanish family or person. He was the owner for 20 years until 1982, when the latest stage of Vega where we currently are at right now. The Alvarez family, the current owners bought Vega Sicilia. They had bought one winery, which made three wines, Unico, Valbuena and Reserva Especial, and they decided to create a group of wineries, and in 1991, they founded Alión, in the Ribera del Duero, only 8 miles east from Vega Sicilia. In 1994, they went into Hungary, the Tokaji region, and they founded Oremus there. In 2001, they created Pintia in Toro, this was the first time they went outside the Ribera del Duero region in Spain. In 2009, we created a winery in Rioja called Macán. It is a winery that we own, along with the Rothchild family and it is the only wine in the group that does not 100% belong to Vega Sicilia. And that is very briefly the history of Vega.’

What is your favourite step in the winemaking process?

Gonzalo Iturriaga:

'The best step for me making Único- it’s a long process, you have to build the wines, and it’s the best moment in my work when we start blending the different parts. It’s a long process where you start ageing in barrels, the first year is in American and French oak, then the second year, half of the wines go back in to the used barrels, and the rest goes into big vats. From that moment until another 3/4 more years, you keep blending the wines, and this is the best part of our wines. I think if Único wines can age for 50, 60, 70 years easily, a huge part of it is the grapes, but also, I think it’s also really important to age it for a long time. Since the 1920, the first guy who started doing these long ageings, he came from Rioja, and from that moment to nowadays, there has been an evolution of course, but we kept the principles of the long ageing, and this is the best part of my work.'

What is the secret to making Vega Sicilia wines?

Gonzalo Iturriaga:

'The secret is the consistency. Of course, good grapes are important, but to maintain the old vines that we have done, trying to select different clones, now we have around 25 that we have planted. So, for us the patrimony is in the vines, and to work with common sense. One of the first decisions Pablo took when he became the boss, was to stop using herbicide and that was in the 1980s. Now, everybody is ecological, biodynamic, but for him it was a thing of common sense for us to keep that as the main point. Then for making the wine, there are a lot of tiny details, we have to take care of all the tiny details to make the best wine we can.'

What is your best memory since working at Vega Sicilia?

Gonzalo Iturriaga:

'We are fairly new to Vega, because we started in 2015, so we don’t have all the memories. But for me it was a tasting in New York that Pablo couldn’t go to, so he asked me to go instead, and I had the chance to taste wines from the 1950s to the 1970s, so for me that was a sort of masterclass, to learn about Vega Sicilia. Also, the moment when we blend! It is a great moment for me, when you go home and feel like you have created something special.'

…and your most challenging?

Antonio Menéndez:

'Well in my case, I’m more dedicated to the business side, so probably the fact that we were new in these last 3/4 years. In all the commercial strategy and approach of Vega Sicilia, we have been always very lucky, because we have more demand than we can offer. So, in our case it is not just a matter of just selling wine, because it’s usually presold before the release. It’s just a matter of selling better and trying to deliver the wines to those who really deserve the wine and who are going to enjoy the wine the most. And that has been a challenge, because we can’t give everyone the wine they really want.'

When is the best moment to drink your wines?

Gonzalo Iturriaga:

'Depends which wines! I think each wine has its own personality, and that’s what we try to show, and I think you have to drink when you feel good. With the Único I would drink it with 30/40 years of ageing. I prefer them with 40 years than young! For the Valbuena, I prefer it after 10 years of ageing, depending on if you can keep it in good condition, but for me we try to make all the wines to be ready when we release them, but the complexity will win with the maturity. Pintia for example is good with 6/7 years ageing and its not going to age like Único and Valbuena is going to age much less.'

What type of food pairs best with your wines?

Gonzalo Iturriaga:

'I like Único and Valbuena with no food, or even Reserva Especial, I like to just drink it on its own, when I have time and there are no kids around! Because they need the time to open and you can feel all the complexity, so for me the Único and Valbuena and Reserva Especial I don’t need anything to eat. But with Pintia, a strong white fish. You wouldn’t believe they would match very well, but it does! I think you have to drink a wine you like with a meal you like, I don’t think there are some certain match, but if you like the food, and you like the wine, everything will be great!'

Antonio Menéndez:

One thing I like in the pairing of Reserva Especial, which is probably our stronger wine, is a very old cheese. That is something that personally, I like! Although cheese is often hard to pair with wine, but in our case every time I have tried our wines with cheese, its fantastic.

How would you describe the Spanish way of life?

Antonio Menéndez:

'People love to go out and share meals and drink wine together! The weather is important because for the rest of the country, at least 3/4 months we do a lot of living outside. And I think generally Spaniards love eating, drinking having fun with friends and family and we are very, very social.'

Gonzalo Iturriaga:

'We are very family orientated, I love to be with my brothers and father, and cousins!'

Antonio Menéndez:

'And we don’t take a nap every day! It’s a bad reputation!'

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