Sometimes judging a great wine when it’s young can be a chore.
Young Bordeaux, for example, can be a tough ask (though less and less with modern styles), as formidable tannins make drinking a prospect for the future. Ditto Barolo, with the very classic styles somewhat challenging as young wines.
Yet in many cases, the glory is apparent from the outset. Great Burgundy, for example, is beautiful as a young wine and beautiful as an old wine. Perfect from the get-go.
With this Vega Sicilia Alion 2011, I’m still trying to work out whether it will be great. Good, no doubt, but greatness? That is the question. Sure, it is very young, and 16 months in new oak rarely leads to immediately drinkable wines. Yet that doesn’t explain why it just isn’t glorious.
It certainly looks the part, with a purple edge to the colour that suggests it has just been bottled. The nose is all purple fruit too, if bobbing along in a wave of vanilla oak sweetness.
There’s the first stumble, with an oak intrusion.
The palate follows with a cascade of dark berries in a luscious form that is oh-so-rich and luscious, the style coffeed, polished, coiffed, and oak lifted, in a modern, flashy, overt form.
If you’re looking for impact, for swish and swagger, then this has it. But the feel here is that it is too ‘made’, the oak imprinting on the finish with raw wood tannins, the alcohol also a slightly bitter intrusion. The fruit is still recognisably Tempranillo but so generous, full and plumped that it loses much of its individuality and becomes utterly international.
There is hints of greatness here, particularly with the length and savouriness (and reflected in the score), but I kept wanting less artifice for this to be a more satisfying drink. Best drinking: 2020-2035. 14.5%. 17.7/20, 92/100+. Would I buy it? Not quite. Not this vintage at least.