The worst-kept secret in European wine circles for the last two years has been Vega Sicilia’s expansion into Rioja. Vega Sicilia and Benjamin de Rothschild began the project 10 years ago, with the discreet but steady acquisition of multiple vineyard plots from smallholder farmers. In this way, they quietly built up what is now a sizable holding of 120 hectares, all within 10 km of the village of San Vicente in the Rioja Alta. In the true style of Vega Sicilia, their purchases concentrated on the very best terroir, with stony calcareous clay soils, complex warm and cool mesoclimatic influences, and deep-rooted Tempranillo vines of 25 to 80 years in age.
Macán is the name chosen for the wines, derived from a traditional name for the people of this sub-region of Rioja. Each year, they aim to produce two wines, Macán and Macán Clásico, “a first and a second wine following the Bordeaux tradition of classification by tasting the different lots and bottling a first wine with more potential and a second wine 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 – after trials, they decided against American oak – but the style is not modern “alto expresión” either. Perhaps the term neoclassical is most apt, with complex mineral-infused fruit and discreet oak influences, underpinned by a fine but firm structure. These are definitely “fine wines” in the grand European tradition, and sure to generate serious media, trade and consumer interest.