Until recently, the D.O Cigales was a region that produced wines that were defined by the rural and traditional nature of the region and its ancient history. The wines here were made using traditional techniques such as stone vats, treading the grapes by foot and fermentation left to the vagaries of nature. However, over the past two decades, the reality of wine here has become something very different. One only has to enter any of the of the region’s renowned wineries to notice that their wines have taken the highway of modernity, shaking off their old reputation. The region has continued to produce rosés, although they are now juicier, fresher and well balanced. The region is also leaning ever more towards the production of red wines, following the example set by other regions along the Duero river, although perhaps with the difference that here they may be easier to drink.
The first known inhabitants of this area were the Vaccaei, who were subjugated by the ancient Romans in the 2nd century BC. Later came the barbaric invasions of the Germans and Arabs, which gives the land a vast history, with numerous castles dotted across its municipalities, such as Trigueros del Valle, the Fuensaldaña or Mucientes where Juana La Loca stayed. The vineyards began to spread along with the castles, especially as property of the monasteries where they needed the wine for both worship and for their private consumption.
Wines from Cigaleswere very successful not only in Spain but abroad, especially during the outbreak of phylloxera in French vineyards, when wines from Cigales arrived in Bordeaux and about 15 million kilograms of grapes were produced at that time. Like neighbouring regions, wines from Cigales also supplied cities such as Valladolid during the middle ages. Until very recently, wines were made in small underground cellars excavated to depths of over 10 metres, which were often shared by small wine-makers (bodegueros).
The rosé wines produced in Cigales are characterised by their production as a blend of red and white varieties, taking into account the acclimatisation of soil varieties, climate and cultural practices of the area. Over the years there have been various experiments, collaborating with the oenological station of Castile and León, to determine the proper proportions of white and red varieties that result in the typical rosé wine from Cigales.
The region began experimenting with the production of red wines in 1985, producing their first reserva wine with the 1991 vintage, the same year in which the DO Cigales was officially recognised. However, in 2011, after several years of proven experience, new regulations allowed the production of white, sparkling and sweet wines to be made under the DO Cigales classification.
The DO Cigales is located in the northwest of Spain, just north of Valladolid along both banks of the River Pisuerga. It extends across this region and part of Palencia. The region is home to nearly 3,000 hectares of vineyards, which are situated on average 750 metres above sea level, along the northern section of the Depresión del Duero. The DO Cigales spans over 574 km2, the smallest DO in Castilla y León. It is home to 500 registered wine growers, and 34 wineries.
Climate, Soil and Varieties
The DO Cigales has a continental climate, characteristic of the central plateau, with an Atlantic influence and stark temperature fluctuations, with temperatures often dropping below 0ºC in winter, and reaching highs of 40ºC in summer. The climate is also characterised by irregular rainfall and strong summer droughts, with raw and long winters characterised by frequent fog, frosts and the Poniente and Abrego winds. The annual average insolation is estimated at 2616 hours, with a maximum of 371 hours in July, and a minimum of 87 hours in December. La precipitación media anual es de 407 mm que se reparten en 93 días al año. The annual rainfall is 407 mm spread over 93 days of the year.
The soil consists of tertiary and quaternary sediments: sands, limestone and gypsum loam, resting on clay and loam. It has a weak granular structure, fine or medium, with scarce stone content and little organic matter.
Regarding grape varieties, Tempranillo and Tinta del País dominate, along with Garnacha Tinta. Among the white varieties, the region is home to the Viura, Verdejo and Albillo grapes, which have been the base of the historic rosé wines in the region. In addition, as of 2011, winemakers have started experimenting with international varieties; Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
Wines and Wineries of the DO Cigales
In recent years, small scale producers have concentrated their efforts on producing red wines by blending Tinta del País with Garnacha, which mature excellently in small oak barrels. The potential to produce first class wine is there, however the region lacks vintners who are capable of creating a more defined style of red wine. Rosés produced in the region are renowned for their freshness, lightness and pleasant aromas.
Bodegas Lezcano Lacalle is perhaps the best example of modernity in the region. The winery was founded in the early eighties in Trigueros del Valle with the aim of producing red wines using the Tempranillo grape. The winery is seen as a pioneer within the region, producing and marketing the first Reserva in the DO Cigales: the Lezcano Lacalle Reserva 1991. The winery is currently home to three different plots of vineyards, formerly part of the Valdetrigueros Manor (Mayorazgo de Valdetrigueros). Currently the Tinta del País variety accounts for over 80% of the winery’s 16 hectares of vineyards, which are also home to another five grape varieties, two more red and three white varieties, some of which are foreign. The winery produces two reservas: the Lezcano Lacalle and Dú, made from a careful selection of the grapes. Another red produced by the winery is Maudes, as well as their famous rosé Docetañidos, which was released for the first time with the 1994 harvest and is the model of a modern rosé wine that combines smooth and powerful structure.
Another winery worth mentioning in the DO Cigales is Frutos Villar, whose history dates back to 1920, when the Frutos Villar family founded their first winery in Toro, anticipating the concept of D.O. (Denominación de Origen). Years later, in 1960, instinct led the family to set up and settle in Cigales, now with the reinforcement of the DO, as well as found wineries in the D.O Ribera del Duero in 1988 and D.O Rueda in 1990. The winery began its journey in Cigales with the acquisition of 100 hectares of vineyards, although the winery now also maintains a supply with selected independent grape growers. The winery is home to the most up to date modern production techniques, with a spectacular collection of 200 American oak barrels, of which 25% are renewed every year. The winery produces two lines of wines under the labels Calderona and Conde Ansurez. Calderona is a rosé produced with Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo and Albillo, as well as a series of single variety Tempranillo red wines, from young wines up to crianzas and reservas that have been aged in oak. However, they are better known for their Calderona Élite range of wines, which include a Tempranillo rosé wine, as well as a red that is free and expressive, aged on average for 18 months in American (90%) and French (10%) oak barrels, made with grapes from old vines. Then, under their Conde Ansurez label, they produce a rosé, a young red wine and a crianza red wine aged for a minimum of 12 months in the barrel. The philosophy of the winery and the character of its wines, both red and rosé, is focused on the Tempranillo variety, and at the moment, it is one of the leading wineries in the region.
Also located in the municipality of Cubillas de Santa Maria is the Valdelosfrailes winery, which is part of the Matarromera Group, which expanded into the DO Cigales in 1998. The family initially cultivated the vines and produced wines using traditional techniques in Cubillas de Santa Marta and Valoria la Buena. However, it was Carlos Moro who began renovations to produce new red wines: careful production in limited quantities. Currently the winery is home to an impressive collection of 500 French and American oak barrels in newly-built facilities, where the winery ages their wines. The winery is home to 60 hectares of vineyards, which are dominated by Tinta del País (Tempranillo) and Garnacha grapes, used to produce wines under the Valdelosfrailes brand. The winery produces white and red wines, as well as the typical modern rosé where floral notes flow along with notes of ripe fruit, with an ample and fresh palate, body, and a balanced acidity. Their line of red wines are made almost exclusively with Tempranillo, including Valdelosfrailes Prestigio, obtained from a selection of grapes and 14 months in French and American oak barrels, and Valdelosfrailes Pago De Las Costanas, a freer red with fruity highlights, tannin maturity and meatiness. The highest-end wine produced by the winery is the Valdelosfrailes Selección Personal Carlos Moro, using grapes taken exclusively from the Pago de la Sallana, a 3.5 hectare vineyard, which is aged for 21 months in oak barrels, with only 1,000 bottles being produced per vintage.
Bodegas y Viñedos Pilcar in Valoria La Buena. Although the winery was officially founded back in 1998, its story begins over 100 years ago, when the family cultivated vineyards and produced wines at a local level. In fact, the great grandfather of the current owner, Enrique Concejo, built a press with his own hands over 100 years ago which is still preserved in the cellar, and with which he produced muscatel, which was very well received in the area. The current winery began to take shape in 1987, with the planting of new vineyards and the restructuring of plots and estates that were already owned by the winery. In fact, the name of the winery, Pilcar, honours the memory of Pilar and Carlos, the initiators of the project. In 2000, they produced their first wine: Viña Concejo Crianza 1998, which was subsequently followed by young wines of the house which took the name of the Carredueñas estate, a property of the winery, which spanned over 26 hectares, 15 of which are dedicated to cultivation of vineyards aged between 6 and 25 years.
Another pioneer in the wine revolution of D.O. Cigales is César Príncipe, located at the highest part of Fuensaldaña, whose cellar of the Príncipe family dates from the mid-1990s, when the winery was shifted from producing traditional bulk claret wines to focusing on bottled wines. The family and the winery retains the original 17 hectare vineyard in the municipality of Fuensaldaña, where the vines are aged between 40-50 years, planted on goblet trained vines, and are home to Tempranillo, Garnacha, Verdejo and Albillo grapes. The winery has then gone on to extend, with another 23 hectares of Tempranillo vineyards in the neighbouring town of Corcos del Valle, but the philosophy of the winery is maintained, with quality being placed over quantity. The winery produces a rosé under the label Clarete de Luna; the red César Príncipe, which is aged for 14 months in French and American oak barrels, and 13 Cántaros Nicolás, a single variety Tempranillo (100%) that is aged for 8 months.
Another winery that is worth mentioning is Finca Museum, from the Barón de Ley Group (Rioja), which currently has 240 hectares. The winery produces many wines, including: Vinea Rosado, a single variety rosé made with the Tempranillo; Vinea Crianza, a single variety Tempranillo red wine, aged for 12 months in French and American oak barrels; then at the top of the range, Museum, a red wine made from selected grapes grown on very old vines, over 70 years old and planted in soil consisting of 50cm of stone on top a chalky-clay subsoil. These vines crown the heights overlooking the Pisuerga valley, at an altitude of 790 metres, just a few kilometres outside of Valladolid. This wine is aged for 24 months in new French oak, giving the wine a delicate roasted character, with spicy notes of liquorice, red fruits and berries, with a background of balsamic and minerals. Museum is delicate, subtle and elegant on its entry into the mouth, ample, with rounded tannins, volume and creaminess and a silky palate, it is very expressive with a long finish