Macan 2014 by Vega Sicilia and Benjamin de Rothschild
Two weeks ago we featured the wines of Vega Sicilia, in particular the Valbuena 5 bottlings. The response was strong so we thought it would be an interesting follow-up to turn our attention to new project from this venerable producer. Macan is a joint venture between Vega Sicilia and Benjamin de Rothschild (of Lafite Rothschild). Starting in 2004 they steadily acquired parcels in Rioja from small farmers and now have a sizable holding of 120 hectares, all within 10km of the village of San Vicente in the Rioja Alta. (The name “Macan” comes from a traditional name for the people of this sub-region of Rioja). The first bottles were released in 2013 and construction of the physical winery was completed in 2016 (the first vintages were made in a rented facility).
Our supplier for Macan, David Bowler Wines, tells us this about the endeavor: “Each year, the winery aims to produce two wines, Macan and Macan Clasico, in a tradition they took from Bordeaux, where it is standard to produce a “first” and a “second” wine; the first is made with lots that show more potential, and the second is more expressive and easy to drink when young. This is perhaps the most notable influence of the Rothschild family on the project, because otherwise all viticulture and winemaking is in the hands of the Vega Sicilia team. The style of the wines is certainly not ‘traditional’ Rioja? for example, after trials, they decided against American oak. Perhaps the term Neo-Classical is most apt, with complex mineral-infused fruit and discreet oak influences, underpinned by a fine but firm structure.”
Macan is the flagship of the winery. It is made from a careful selection of the grapes from the best plots. It ferments in French oak vats for 10-15 days, aging in new barrels lasts between 16 and 18 months and it rests in the bottle for at least two years before going on the market. Three key factors that determine the personality and quality of a great wine are soil, climate and vines. All plots are located on the slopes of the Sierra Cantabria, north of the Ebro River. They are mostly small size, in high elevation terraces on soils of clay-limestone. The predominant variety grown is Tempranillo. The climate is mild, with both Atlantic and Mediterranean influences and continental currents. Requirements for the vines chosen and transplanted were that they grow well in calcareous soils and be at least 35 years old. What the venture has produced is a very finely and elegantly contoured and crafted wine, more ‘modern’ in style then Vega Sicilia’s traditional Valbuena or Unico, and the producer says it will age well up to 20 years. The reviews have been strong, see below.
Wine Advocate, 94pts. - “I tasted the 2014 Macan once again, as they are holding the top wine to give it one more year in bottle before being released. It fermented in oak vats with inoculated yeasts and aged in new barrique for 16 to 18 months. They want to give this cuvee no less than three years in bottle. This 2014 was bottled in May 2016, not quite three years ago yet, but it can provide a good idea of the development the wine is going to have when it's released. It's evolving at a very slow pace; it's a tight red with plenty of tannins, and the time in bottle seems to be doing it good. There is concentration and power, as well as typicity from the variety and the zone, with that austerity from this part of Rioja. It's a serious, modern and nicely crafted Tempranillo with a touch of sweet spices and smoke. It should continue evolving nicely in bottle.”
James Suckling, 94pts. - “Darker fruit, deeper and more earthy accents on the nose here. Leafy too. There’s a supple palate with plenty of depth, power and smoothly rendered tannins. The depth is impressive here. Great length and resolve. Strong, dark-plum finish. Best from 2020 and for a decade at least.”
Josh Raynolds, Vinous Media - "Opaque ruby. A heady, exotically perfumed bouquet evokes ripe black and blue fruits, incense, candied licorice and mocha, and a smoky nuance builds in the glass. Sappy, densely packed boysenberry, cherry liqueur, cola and vanilla flavors show impressive energy and focus and a late jolt of florality. Distinctly rich yet vibrant and graceful in style. Finishes with impressive energy and velvety tannins that lend shape and gentle grip."