The vineyards of Cillar de Silos have been accumulated by Amalio Aragon over nearly 50 years (the DO has only been in existence since 1982). Local Tinto Fino vines are planted on poor sand/clay soils at 860-900 metres altitude in “the roof of Ribera del Duero” in small plots scattered through the hills surrounding the villages of Quintana del Pidio and Gumiel de Mercado. In the northern reach of Ribera del Duero, the extreme continental climate has extremely cold winters and blazing hot summers. A massive diurnal temperature range promotes both the accumulation of grape sugar and the retention of grape acidity.
In 1994, Amalio Aragon yielded to his three kids. Oscar who would be winemaker, Roberto who would be business manager, and Amelia who would run marketing and exports. The kids took over the farm in what is one of the clearest examples of the shift in the late 20th century whereby great family producers could be established by withdrawing from volume-oriented production for the co-op (or the big company robber barons) and with lower crops and better viticulture make great estate wines. The Aragons did this at Cillar de Silos.
The bodega is just a few hundred metres out of Quintana del Pidio on the way towards Gumiel and Burgos. This facility has been re-built, extended and amended every year or two in an ongoing commitment of capital investment.
All fruit is hand selected in the field and then hand-sorted upon reception in the bodega. Most fermentations are in stainless steel, all fruit is de-stemmed, and the wines are gently macerated for 7-10 days, with daily pump-overs, lightly pressed to undergo malolactic in French oak (except the Jovens). New oak is used for the deluxe wines, Crianza and Vermut are aged in 1-4yo wood (Joven is unoaked).
The maturation cellar was ‘created’ in 1995 when the Aragons bought three existing neglected ancient cellars under Quintana, renovated and amalgamated them into a single entity. This perfectly ventilated series of caves is a pure cellar, perfectly stable at 11 degrees year-round, and clean as a whistle – an underground dirt paradise!
I claim with great pride (and a partial truthfulness) responsibility for this wine being commercially available at all … when I first visited CdS in September 2000, while sitting with Roberto tasting their range of reds, I spied a bottle of what looked like pink wine in a clear bottle, unlabelled, open, standing on a draining board by the sink in the little kitchen of the tasting room.
“What’s that, Roberto?”
“What’s what, Scott?”
“That pink wine I can see back there. I am crazy about Rosado. Dry pink wine is part of why I am in Spain on this discovery mission! For years I have been a leader of the (entirely imaginary) ‘Rosé Liberation Front’ in Adelaide and Melbourne. My wine lists always have a pink on by the glass, even in the depths of winter. I SEE SOMETHING PINK AND I WANT TO TASTE IT!”
“No you don’t. Now, about this Torresilo …”
Then there’s a scuffle and a hubbub of vexed argument in Spanish at the doorway. Roberto’s father and sister, Amalio and Amelia appear. Amalio wants to know what Roberto and I are arguing about. He thinks it’s about Pink Wine. He is excited. The Pink Wine is HIS WINE. Oscar makes a couple of barrels a year of rustic pink to satisfy his dad’s recalcitrant drinking habits. … I am on a winner.
I smile at Amalio and ask in my best emergent Spanish, “es posible pruebo su Rosado señor?”
Amalio radiates a triumphant smile as Roberto’s arm emerges from the darkest of clouds and slops some pink into a fresh glass for me. Fuck it was great! At this point I decide to start a wine importing business, and tell Roberto that I will become his importer in Australia, solely on the condition that he bottles and labels at least a little Rosado de Silos for me each year. I love it when I get a result …
With a bit of white in the blend (Albillo, Tempranillo Blanc and Verdejo along with Garnacha Negre feature as minor blend elements along with Tinto Fino), the old-school local name for this style is Ojo de Gallo – chook’s eye pink! After a very short maceration, the bleed of Silos Joven and some pressings wine is fermented long (25 days maceration) and cool (16 degrees). One of the extra-clever things about this wine, however, is that they use it to balance their soils for the estate wine. The Rosado doesn’t just bleed the Tinto, as a selection it effectively bleeds the heaviest clays out of the main wine!
The joy of pink - beautiful light red wine pared back but not stripped down. Not for describing, it’s pure drinking pleasure, dry, soft, deep and clear. The wine has a really lovely line and nice gentle roundness yet is very light in glycerol. Pale pink, effectively dry at 3 g/l.
The unwooded young wine of Cillar de Silos. Joven de Silos shows all the attributes of Ribera del Duero. Old vines which yield fantastic textural tannins, the fruit brightness and gamey depth, the perfume and spice of Tinto Fino, and the wonderful soft natural acid retained by high altitude organically-farmed dry grown bushvines. In fact, that’s all there is in Silos Joven – great fruit, natural acid and natural fruit tannin, perfect and effortless harmony from the vineyard.
Trademark Ribera blue florals and carnal-meatiness, it shows both seriousness and lift. Very savoury, bloody with lovely spice, and nicely bright. Really fine and precise without any mean or tight character, red fruits, fine tannin gives a great long line, freshened by natural acid at the end.
This is our favourite lamb wine for restaurant use – it’s just dying to cut some fat. Old vine fruit is gently fermented and sensibly extracted then aged a year or so in older French oak. Very little is ‘done’ to affect this gentle and characterful expression. Stainless steel fermentation, 13 months in low impact French oak.
Juicy and alive, this earthen beauty has ginger in blueberry, delicate bark-balsam and fine satin florals. The pippy mulberry fruit is cut with anise and red heather, dreamy earthiness and nutty tannin aromatics. It’s perfectly balanced in the mouth, with the generous inky blue fruit profile cut by admirable fruit tannin, finely judged oak, natural spice and acid. Gorgeous, fluid and long.
Old vines, rendered poetic! Most of the fruit here is off vines in the 60-70 year old range, grown in sand and gravel (the clay patches are selected out for Joven and Rosado). Stainless steel fermentation, 16 months new French.
Fine, deep blue-note cola aromatics are underpinned by gorgeous silty clay-dirt smells imbued with licorice, tobacco, cowhide and rainforest timber … very pure, and very Ribera. Blueberry fruit in the mouth plus Silos’ typical red heather perfume is cut by nutty tannins and precisely set tangy-anisey mineral acidity. So silky and creamy, but in no part fatty.
This is a really stylish, and serious vermouth based on old vines of dry grown Tinto Fino. These are fermented out to make a proper dry red base wine of extremely high quality, which is then carbon treated to remove some colour. The base is then sweetened with grape must, taking the alcoholic density down to 14% and balancing the wine with 100 grams/litre residual grape sugar. The resultant sweet red is macerated with herbs and once tannin, sugar, wine and herb are in balance, the Vermut is pressed off herbs and aged in old French oak barrels (previously used for CDS deluxe reds like Torresilo) for 6 months.
A ‘Golfo’ is a party guy.
GOLFO is the first Vermouth from the Ribera del Duero - a Turin-style aromatised red wine. Oscar Aragon, winemaker at Cillar de Silos, learned to make Vermouth while studying Oenology in Logroño and each vintage made a few litres for domestic consumption. Herbs: worm-wood, gentian, quinine, marjoram and savory (a genus of aromatic plants from the family Lamiaceae, related to rosemary and thyme, native to North Africa, Southern and South-Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia).