Ronsel do Sil means "Sil's wake" in Galician language, and it has this name because of the closeness of the winery to the Sil river's shore. The adopted vines are in one of our vineyards closer to the river, where it’s very peaceful and nature is exuberant. Ribeira Sacra is a "Cultural Interest site" (B.I.C.) and a candidate to be named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Therefore, the area is protected and does not allow new, non-authorized constructions that do not adapt to their surroundings. For this reason, the architecture of the winery blends in with the landscape of vineyards on stone terraces. The winery is part of a natural, historic-religious landscape, adjacent to the winter route of the Saint James Way, through which Galicia (and Spain) has shared for centuries viticultural traditions with Europe.
Ronsel do sil is located in one of the most sparsely populated regions of Galicia. Since the beginning of our project we have restored different stone constructions, recovered abandoned vineyards and created new full-time jobs for the local population. In addition, we have attracted tourism to the area, creating a sustainable employment structure coupled with the maintenance of a unique landscape and history, which is a Unesco World Heritage nomination.
One of the particularities of Ribeira Sacra D.O., is the prohibition of artificial irrigation, so the vines are nourished exclusively by rainwater, groundwater runoff and minerals from the soil. This makes the cultivation sustainable, with a great use of energy, and the work of the winery is always in balance with the ecosystem. Another particularity is the growth of astoundingly deep roots in the vines that can reach 10 meters long, which absorb the granitic characteristics that are later reflected in the glass, in a total symbiosis of wine and terroir. We carry an ancestral practice of digging around the vine's trunk to avoid the growth of unwanted weeds and we use dried gorse as a covering element ("mulching") to preserve the natural soil humidity and natural nutrients.
These natural conditions are so expressive and unique that we believe in the minimum intervention both in the vineyard and in the winery: we do not use pesticides or herbicides, the harvest is completely manual, we increase energetic saving by taking advantage of the land's gravity during winemaking and our wines only use indigenous yeasts brought by the grapes themselves during fermentation.
In Ronsel do Sil we carry out biodynamic viticulture, although we are not certified yet, with the utmost respect for the nature that surrounds us. Because we do not use pesticides, fresh grass and moss grow in the vineyard paths, favoring the presence of beneficial insects, attracted also by the roses we plant at the beginning of each row of vines, which quickly detect possible diseases in a natural way. One of the results from this respectful farming is the great number of honey artisans in the area, with a great number of bees that swarm around our vineyards and which help pollinate the vines' flowers. In the surroundings of our vineyards it is easy to spot rabbits, deer and wild boars, as well as chestnut trees, aromatic plants and wild berries that grow spontaneously.
We prioritize the quality of the grapes above yields and we carry out the pruning in the early stages of the cluster development to ensure the maximum quality. We cultivate exclusively indigenous varieties within the Denomination of Origin Ribeira Sacra. Some of these varieties are pre-phylloxeric and are endangered.
The Ribeira Sacra does not allow invasive projects that change the arrangement of ancient vineyards. That is why our vineyards are laid out asymmetrically and naturally in the two sub-zones of Bibei and the Sil Valley. This leads to another difficulty in this Heroic Viticulture: the sun exposure of each vineyard is different and each of the 19 varieties has different ripening cycles, so our ripening controls have to be constant and exhaustive. We carry out the harvest differentiating absolutely all our varieties and that is why this is one of the longest harvests in the world, lasting up to 2 months.
Our work team is made up professionals specialized in all the tasks regarding viticulture, elaboration process and maintenance of our facilities. All year long and for several years, Raúl, Borja and Martín have been working under contract with us, carrying out vineyard work during the different seasons: use of natural compost that we make ourselves for fertilization; restoration and maintenance of the stone walls and wooden stakes for carrying the vineyard. They also take care of respectful pruning, sustainable management and tillage using gorse that covers the soil to avoid the use of herbicides, etc… Further, they help us with the green harvest to diminish the yields, and therefore, increase the quality in the phenolic ripening of the remaining grapes.
We hire personnel during harvest as pickers, porters, and support workers for the winemaking when the peak of work is highest. They come from local families that have absorbed from an early age the love for the land and the practices of this Heroic Viticulture. Many of them have formed harvesting crews for many years and have extensive experience working together as a team. When the workdays are toughest, the day is planned so the workers' activity takes place in the coolest hours of the day.
All of this is done according to the quality controls of the Denominación de Origen Ribeira Sacra and the Department of Health and Rural Environment of the Government of the Xunta de Galicia.
We value the knowledge of our workers immensely, and that is why our employers are all registered in the Spanish Social Security and they receive a salary according to the tasks they carry and higher than the minimum wage. Our workers start their days very early, at sunrise, and they finish in early afternoon, so that they can spend time with their families and take care of their own land.
One of the added difficulties to the complicated orography of this area is that the Denomination of Origin requires that the 19 varieties are picked separately, although they can be mixed up in the same vineyard. Therefore, great knowledge is necessary to differentiate the clusters, something the local families transmit to the new generations. That is why we hire exclusively people from the adjacent towns. For the selection process of the grapes in the winery we prefer to employ women because of the care they traditionally show in removing the unwanted grapes without breaking the skin of the remaining ones. In Ronsel do Sil we are very lucky to form a great family that knows how to combine tradition, wine culture and teamwork.
After the harvest of the Mencía, the grapes are taken to the winery, where they are selected carefully and then they carry a pre-fermentative maceration at low temperature (10ºC). We use "delestage" as an extraction method, which permits the oxygenation of the must and softens the astringency of the tannins. The design of the winery takes advantage of the soil's gravity to reduce the use of pumps, diminishing this way the energy consumption. Fermentation is carried in French oak barrels of 5,000l at a temperature between 20º and 22ºC, controlled by cold plates inside, always with the indigenous yeasts from the grape. Afterwards, the malolactic fermentation takes place, after which the must, already turned into wine, starts the aging process, also in French oak barrels, for 8 months until the clarification with bentonite (vegan product) and filtering. We bottle the wine between the months of June and July, after which the bottles rest before being marketed. We use 100% natural cork. The Mencía variety, although aged for short periods, has a spectacular development in the bottle of several years that enhances the aromas and provides great balance.
In Ronsel do Sil, we use recycled glass bottles and we recycle all the glass leftovers from enotourism. We practically do not generate any waste, because the remains of the pruning are used as compost in our vineyards and the remains of the grape skins are sold to local artisans who make brandy. Also, the impressive slopes of the area, which can reach 100%, do not allow for the use of machinery, so the harvest is exclusively by hand and the pollution is zero.