Decant time for 1996 Vega Sicilia Unico?

We’re going to a restaurant that has '96 Unico on the list for a price too good to pass up, and where we can’t simply buy it and bring it home. I’ve always thought of Unico as needing a lot of time to show well, so have very little experience with drinking them young. Any thoughts on how long to decant?

Can you buy it the day before and have them uncork it in the cellar? If you trust the place that is.

We had the 70 a year or two ago and it needed hours, but mostly to blow off the old wine smell. I imagine the 96 will need real time to blossom.

We already have it reserved, so I’m sure we can have them do whatever we want. My question wasn’t limited to answers that fit within the time period from our arrival at the restaurant. :slight_smile:

I’ve worked as a sommelier for two large verticals of Unico and I think these young ones definitely benefit from a long decant. If it’s possible, I’d open it 4-6 hours ahead of drinking. Maybe they can open it for you at lunch to have it primed and ready for dinner?

Thanks, Lily. It’s a lunch reservation. But we can ask for early, I am sure. Except in the case of old Barolo, I’m not usually a fan of long decants, preferring to follow evolution and fearing shutdown, which I have experienced all too often. That said, Unico could be a different animal, so I appreciate the input from those who have more experience with the wine.

At the minimum, I’d go for 2 hours to be conservative. I’ve definitely experienced the same thing with older Barolo and felt totally gypped. Never a bad thing to be safe, though I do think this wine, if well stored, should be able to handle it.

Never thought your query had limitations. I did not realize this was lunch, that makes preparation more logistically awkward.

Yep, lunch is the plan. I’m still pretty sure someone could open it early. It’s also a short lunch, so we don’t have time to linger and wait for it to open while we drink something else. Makes me more concerned than I usually am to “get it right.”

I would do 3 hours, possibly longer. I don’t see the wine breaking down with a longer decant, so if you don’t have a lot of time to let it evolve, maybe ask for a 5 hour decant?

4-6 hours comfortably. Had the wine on a few occasions. Needs a good amount of air. At home, I have even pulled the cork it in the morning for slow ox then decant 6 hours prior. Many ways to skin this cat as long as it sees plenty of air.

I had this wine a year ago. We decanted at the beginning of a long dinner and did not try it until the very end. Maybe 2.5 hours. It still needed more time. Very oak influenced with the nose giving hints of what might come off and on. Best glass was probably an hour after the first one. I would ask for a 4-5 hour decant if you can.

First and foremost, I do not have experience with this wine.

Let’s say you can get the somm to open it the night before, I’d still worry about what might happen to the wine between then and when you get there. I’m a pretty trusting person, but you never know what might happen or how it might get stored afterward. Do you know how the wine is being stored right now? Do you trust the restaurant, the somm and the dishwasher all to handle the bottle properly?

it’s quite a pickle, I say. If I’d never seen their storage myself, I’d arrive and order something else, no matter the deal. or ask for a double decanter and aggressively aerate myself.

We know the restaurant, though we’ve only been there once, and they have an extensive and proper cellar. The sommelier is quite professional. I would never open a wine the night before, even in my own home - I don’t think a wine that “needs” that much air is going to show the way I’d want it to, even after the aeration (madeira is an exception, of course) - but I am comfortable asking them to open, decant and leave at cellar temp a few hours, if that’s what we decide we want. We drank another bottle in the restaurant last year, which is how we know it’s there, when we had a more leisurely meal and were able to drink something else while we waited. The wine was delicious after the 1.5 or so hours we gave it, I just don’t know how much more would be beneficial, which prompted this thread. I do know that even if it’s only 1.5 hours, it’s more than drinkable!

Haven’t ever had the 96, but I’d probably have it double decanted back into the cleaned bottle the night before and put back in the cellar until serving.

That’s my approach for most old world wines.

Sarah, just have them open it before you arrive. It’s not going to be noticeably better if you open it the night before rather than a few hours before. You’re not trying to soften tannins or get rid of sulfur. It’s mostly Tempranillo of course, which in my experience doesn’t require hours of air time. Don’t forget, this sat in oak for years and consequently has the benefit of plenty of oxygen. It’s a really good vintage, not quite like the prior two but in the same category, kind of like José Carreras in the three tenors. It’s at the beginning of its drinking window. Mariano made that wine. It will seem young for forty years or longer.

Enjoy your lunch!

I know you’re against this but seeing how opening it a day before would only be about 14ish hours I would ask them to open it at 10pm if possible, no 2x decant, just audoze and drink for lunch, should be just about at its perfect drinking window.

Greg, I can’t talk about the 96, but I can tell you that an 8-12 hour decant on the 1970 will deliver a far different wine that is superior to a pnp or a 3 hr decant. Have never done an Audoze for 12 hrs,but for a youngish powerful wine I’d prefer a decant.

With very few exceptions, I do not enjoy wines that have been open that long and kept at cellar temperature. That much time open may not make the wine fall apart, and it may impart positive “opening up” action, but a taste of staleness creeps in that is discernible to me, though not always to others. I am exceptionally sensitive to these flavors. It seems to be worse with young wines which I have treated in this way. That’s why I would never open a wine the night before.