Pilar Salillas

Pilar Salillas

Cellar Lagravera (Enóloga/Winemaker)

A course in wine tasting, and winning a tasting competition decided her fate.

Until 2018, Pilar Salillas held the title of Enóloga at Bodega Raimat, (raimat.com/es/bodegas) a winery in the Codorníu Group focused on sustainable farming and ecology. She is now the Enóloga at Cellar Lagravera, which, like Raimat, emphasizes Sustainable farming and ecology, and is the only winery in the Costers del Segre Denomination of Origin that is credentialed as Certified Ecological (CCPAE) and Biodinámica (Demeter International). In addition to her work at the winery, Pilar has started a wine club in her hometown of Binéfar and is educating its participants about wine and food pairings.

Our conversation with the talented Pilar took place during her time at Raimat Estate. She began her studies in engineering and while completing this degree, took a course in wine tasting. She “fell in love with wine” at that point, and also won the competition associated with the course! From there, she studied viticulture at Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Tarragona, as did many other winemakers we spoke to in the region. She completed her praxis at Nuviana Cellar Valle del Cinca in Aragon, Spain, in 2006 and in 2007 headed off to Sonoma for an internship at Geyser Peak, where she worked in the cellar. On returning to Spain, she worked for several years at the family-run winery, CELLER PIÑOL in the Terra Alta wine region, and then one year in Raimat and two years at Masia Bach, which is in the Penedès, and part of the Codorníu Group. In 2013 she returned to Raimat, which is where she completed secondary school.

Pilar loved her work and her increasing responsibilities at Raimat. Her main work was in the cellar, overseeing the winemaking at the winery. She has an excellent palate and greatly enjoys the tastings associated with the blending decisions. In addition, she has been asked to coordinate safety, quality control, and environmental protection. Pilar feels supported and challenged in her work and looks forward to what the future will bring as her career progresses. Eventually she would love to become a technical director in any of the Codorníu wineries. She greatly admired Elisabeth Figueras, the current technical director at Raimat, who is an inspirational role model and visionary leader.

We were very impressed by what we saw at the winery and learned a great deal about the dedication it has to sustainable agriculture. This includes solar energy and the careful use of water, which originates in the Pyrenees far to the north of the estate and is distributed throughout the extensive vineyards via a drip irrigation system that does not require the use of any pumps.

The Wines. Raimat Estate produces both still wines and Cavas and was among the first wineries in Spain to produce a Chardonnay. Pilar introduced us to an amazing array of still wines as well as to the elegant new label for the Castell de Raimat Collection. We tasted several wines from this collection, including the 2014 Anima de Raimat, made from Chardonnay, Xarello and Albariño, and the 2011 Anima de Raimat Tinto, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah, all of which were very enjoyable and also are quite affordable. We also especially liked the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2012 Syrah.

An Aside About Raimat. The history behind the Raimat Estate is interesting. In 1914, needing new land on which to plant vineyards, Manuel Raventós, son of Josep Raventós — who introduced the traditional method for making sparkling wine in Spain at Codorníu winery in the Penedès — purchased a large block of land, which basically was a stone-covered desert 100 miles from Barcelona. Years of work transformed the area into what the Spanish government has called “a model agriculture estate.” The size of the estate is somewhat mind-boggling, with nearly 4,000 acres of vineyards, all of which are certified by the Catalan Council for Sustainable Farming. Raimat constitutes virtually a single area within the Costers del Segre Denomination of Origin, established in 1986. Moreover, the village of Raimat itself is essentially a “company town,” in that the vast majority of its inhabitants are employees of the estate.