Somontano Wine: Beauty and Innovation at the Foot of the Spanish Pyrenees

When you see references to Spain's Somontano DO, you'll also notice adjectives like "exciting" and "modern."  In The Wines of Spain, author Julian Jeffs calls Somontano's wines "some of the best in Spain."

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The Somontano DO was established in 1984, which makes it one of Spain's newer DOs.  Interestingly, although wine has been part of Somontano's heritage since Roman times, the region did not develop a long-established traditional style of winemaking.  This has allowed Somontano's present-day winemakers to experiment with not only their native grapes but also with foreign grape varieties.  New investment in wineries and equipment has helped Somontano's wineries to double their exports since 1995, according to the Web site Wines from Spain, which is maintained by the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade.

Somontano Winemaking History
Winemaking came to Somontano with the Romans some time around 500 B.C.  As in most of western Europe, once winemaking was firmly established in Somontano, it was there to stay.  As phylloxera began to devastate French vineyards in the 19th century, some French winemakers crossed the Pyrenees to nearby Somontano in order to make wine with healthy grapes grown in Spain.  Both the Spanish native and foreign grape varieties did well in Somontano, but the region's wine industry did not begin to grow rapidly until the DO was officially established in 1984.

Since that time, winemaking in Somontano has grown and prospered at a breathtaking rate.  Not only have innovative winemakers come to the region to establish new wineries, the existing winemakers have modernized and expanded.  Throughout this period of growth, winemakers have remained focused on quality as the key to success in Somontano.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Geography, Soil and Climate
Somontano's unique location in Aragón near the foothills of the Pyrenees gives the region its name, which translates to "under the mountain."  The region's climate, geography and soils are excellent for growing wine grapes.  Somontano is an inland DO with a mild to moderate continental climate.  Summers are hot and dry, with temperatures soaring as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  Winters are cold.  Temperatures in winter months dip below 15 degrees Fahrenheit and frost can be a problem.  There are several rivers within the DO, tributaries of the Ebro River, and grapevines are typically planted in Somontano's river valleys.  Rainfall averages about 20 inches per year.

The soils of Somontano are ideal for grape growing.  Most areas have healthy soils that are not very fertile.  In many parts of the region, soils are limestone-based.  Clay, calcium and sandstone are common, and vineyards near rivers also have alluvial material in their soils.