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La Ribera del Duero

The history of a great wine area: La Ribera del Duero

Cillar de Silos, en la Ribera del Duero

The presence and cultivation of vineyards in Quintana del Pidio and the surrounding area of La Ribera del Duero has been documented for over 2000 years ago. In 300 BC, the Romans settled here and planted vines, although the Pre-Roman people (Vacceans and Arevacos) that preceded them had planted vines, the plantations became stable with the arrival of the Romans. Ceramics, mosaics and sculptures with wine related motifs can be found in the old Roman towns which prove their existence: Clunia, Baños de Valdearados are examples of towns and villages where they have found these artifacts.

During the Visigoth period the cultivation of the vine spread and took root. From the 6th century, religious orders (mainly the Cluny monks also in Burgundy) arrived in Duero Valley and founded numerous monasteries. The monks cultivated the vines and taught new techniques to the local farmers. In the 12th century, the first wine cellars were excavated into the ground and the vines became an important of cultural and economic development in the area. In 1190, King Alfonso 8th gifted the village of Quintana del Pidio to the Saint Domingo de Silos Monastery which became one of its prized possessions.

In the 15th century the first regulations were created to control production and commerce. Now in the Medieval period, Quintana del Pidio was chosen by the monks at Silos Monastery as supplier for their wines.

Gunnar Knechtel Photography, Spain, Vinery bodega Cillar de SiloAs told by the great French historian Huet de Lemps in his epic work about our region, in 1769 wine was generally sold under a lottery system amongst winemakers, dividing the commerce into months and since the 17 th century it was not permitted to sell out of your allocated period. This system did not favour the more humble, as they had to sell faster and at a lower price or to change their turn, whilst the rich could wait until the local fairs where there were more buyers. This system ran throughout Castile and Leon in the 17th and 18th centuries. There were places the system did not exist and there were one or two buyers who bought out the entire production but this was not always possible.

The transport from Quintana del Pidio and Gumiel de Mercado was the most expensive in the 19th century. It cost 4,5 pesetas/ hectoliter whilst other Burgos villages paid a peseta less. There were years when more than half of the production was exported from the stations in Burgos and Dueñas. Sometimes it was sent in trunks of 30 cantaras (480 litres) and also in wineskins and buckets.

The great business opportunity came when France was hit by phylloxera and the Quintana del Pidio area sold more than 28,000 cantaras (448,000 litres) to France and 184,000 litres to the rest of Spain as phylloxera affected Quintana del Pidio less than other zones due to its sandy soils. At the end of the 19th century, as the spread of phylloxera slowed down, the area still sold wine to France, Germany and Spain

In 1982 the Denomination of Origin Ribera del Duero formed to which Cillar de Silos joined a few years later.