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2015 El Quintanal Blanco, Cillar de Silos, Rueda
If one recalls one’s history, one will remember that it was the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile that set Spain on its road to unity. This is a somewhat whimsical introduction to Bodegas Cillar de Silos, which is located in the heart of Castille, Ribera del Duero to be precise, but owned and run by the brothers and sister team of Oscár, Roberto and Amelia Aragón.
They also manage the El Quintanal Estate in neighbouring wine region Rueda and are thus perfectly located for both red and white wine making, demonstrating all that is great about, respectively, Verdejo and Tempranillo as grape varieties.
The Aragóns define the House Philosophy with the words ‘purity, fruit, low yields, long ageing and hand selection’. The wines are finely crafted but demonstrably Spanish, which is good news!
One of Spain's higher quality white grape varieties which languished in obscurity for several hundred years before being rediscovered 15 years ago. It is a native grape of Rueda in North-west Spain and is now its principal white grape variety. It is most successfully cultivated in high altitude vineyards where the soils are calcareous and well drained.
Previously Verdejo-based wines were worryingly prone to premature oxidation. However techniques including night-time harvesting, cool fermentation and the use of an inert gas blanketing have led to the delicate and youthful aromatic freshness of the wines being preserved. It is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc to add body and richness to Sauvignon's aromatic lift. Its finest manifestation is Rueda Superior, which must contain a minimum of 85% Verdejo.
Typically Verdejo dominated wines are crisp with soft, creamy, nutty overtones, and sometimes accompanied by notes of honey. Arguably Spain's finest white grape variety.
In the last 30 years, Ribera del Duero has risen up to challenge Rioja for the crown of Spain's greatest wine region. Once known only as the home of Vega Sicilia it now boasts numerous bodegas of outstanding quality, from Hacienda Monasterio to Cillar de Silos. The region was granted its DO status in 1982, and today has over 200 wineries and more than 20,000 hectares of vines.
In the last 30 years, Ribera del Duero has emerged from almost nowhere to challenge Rioja for the crown of Spain's greatest wine region. Once known only as the home of Vega Sicilia it now boasts numerous bodegas of outstanding quality like Cillar de Silos, Alión and Hacienda Monasterio. Ribera del Duero was granted its DO status in 1982, at a time when only nine bodegas were operating there, yet today it has over 200 wineries and more than 20,000 hectares of vines. Most of Ribera del Duero's production is red, with only a modest quantity of rosado produced. No white wines are allowed under the DO.
Ribera del Duero owes its success to a combination of factors: firstly, its terroir of schistous sub-soil bears remarkable similarity to other famous winemaking regions such as the Douro and Priorat. Secondly, its microclimate, with its high altitude, hot days and cool nights (a phenomenon known as “diurnal variation”), ensures ripeness while preserving the vivacity of the fruit, aromatic flavours and refreshing acidity.
Thirdly, it has been blessed with an exceptional native grape, Tempranillo (also known as Tinto del País or Tinto Fino). This yields superb, complex red wines that are delicious when young but which also have the capacity to age into magnificent Gran Reservas. Finally, the immense influence of its winemakers has been key – historically, of course, Vega Sicilia, but more recently Peter Sisseck (Hacienda Monasterio) and the indefatigable Aragón family of Cillar de Silos.
The same DO rules govern Ribera's barrel-aged styles as for Rioja: Crianzas are aged for two years before release with at least a year in oak barrels; Reservas must be three years old with at least a year spent in oak; and, finally, Gran Reservas must be five years old before going on sale, with two years spent in barrel. The young (joven) unoaked red wines, called Roble, tend to boast a moreish, vibrant, bramble fruit while the best oak-aged styles of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva show intense, generous fruit, overlaid with notes of vanilla and sweet spice, and wrapped up in polished, elegant tannins.
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