Ever since Vega Sicilia, Spain’s most iconic winery, announced in 2011 that it had teamed up with Benjamin de Rothschild to launch a pair of high-end Rioja wines, fans of serious Spanish wines have been on red alert in anticipation of the release. At long last, the waiting is almost over.
Bodegas Vega Sicilia’s General Manager Pablo Alvarez, in an exclusive interview with Wine Enthusiast, confirmed that by June the wines will be available in the United States. Alvarez said the launch of Macan and Macan Clasico will take place over the next two months in Europe, and within four months in the U.S.
Named for the indigenous people who lived near the village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, the Macan project began 13 years ago with a stealth buyer, acting on behalf of the Vega Sicilia/Rothschild partnership, snapping up some 40 parcels (175 acres) of old-vine Tempranillo, about 90% of which are near San Vicente in the Rioja Alta subzone. Vega Sicilia winemaker Xavier Ausas conducted experimental vintages from 2006 through 2008, but with the 2009 harvest the real thing is coming. Based on pricing leaving the winery and assuming normal markups, the wines should be released commercially at about $70 to $75 for Macan and $40 to $45 for Macan Clasico.
“The grapes are fermented in wood and steel tanks, then aged 14 months in French oak, only 60% new, with a selection done after barrel aging” said Alvarez, noting that the inaugural wines as well as forthcoming vintages were made at a small rental winery but that a proprietary bodega in Rioja Alta will be ready for the 2014 harvest. Alvarez said the style of the wines falls somewhere between lighter-framed traditional Rioja and the darker, riper “modern” Riojas that have risen up over the past 10–15 years. “We feel that the old wines need to evolve and the modern wines are too international and don’t really represent a great region like Rioja. We are very excited about the quality of these wines; Rioja is the most important region in Spain and we just want to add our grain of sand to a place this special.”