On 6th May 34 members of the Society boarded the coach for the Society’s annual wine trip, this year to DO Somontano, last visited by the Society in 2007. Somontano is set in the foothills of the Pyrenees and the Sierra de Guara. Founded in 1984 the DO is centred in the town of Barbastro in the
Province of Huesca and the group stayed in the hotel Gran Cuidad de Barbastro for the duration of the visit. Vineyards in this region lie at a height of between 350 and 1,000 metres above sea level. The vines here enjoy a dark sandy-clay soil, particularly high in lime content and rich in alluvial matter. The soil is not especially fertile, but it has good drainage which facilitates the deep penetration of roots so they can absorb more moisture and nutrients. The region’s climate is continental, with the Pyrenees mountains buffering exposure to the cold northern winds. Nonetheless, winter freezes are common, as are extremely high temperatures in the summer. On a daily basis, temperatures also fluctuate significantly between day and night. Average rainfall is 500 mm.
Before arriving in Barbastro, our journey to the region included a lunch stop at one of the favourite bodegas of the Society, Bodegas Añadas in Cariñena, famous for its Care wines. Here we enjoyed wines from the bodega together with a menu de degustación. Despite not doing a tour of the bodega, we nevertheless bought some of the Care wines to the tune of 880€. We arrived at our hotel at 18,30 and at 20.00 assembled in the Seville suite for tapas and drinks.
The following morning our visit commenced with a visit to the Consejo Regulador de DO Somontano. The Consejo controls every aspect of wine production in Somontano. Here we were shown a video and given a talk about Somontano, setting the scene for our visits to four of the bodegas of the region. We then went and visited, probably the best known of the medieval villages with which the region abounds; Alquézar. It is said to be amongst the most beautiful and picturesque villages in Spain which as barely changed over the centuries.
The first bodega which we visited was that of Bodegas Alodia, a small family run business producing a mere 30,000 bottles per annum. One of the smallest bodegas in Somontano, with 17 hectares of their own vineyards they produced their first wine in 2005. It was born with the idea of recovering the unique grape varieties of Somontano which almost disappeared and the production of unique wines. It is the only DO Somontano winery that produces wines from the three local varieties: Parraleta, Moristel and Alcañón. In the case of this last white grape, it has contributed to its recovery and Alodia Alcañón’s monovarietal is the only one that is commercialized of this grape in the world. We tasted Alcañón 2018 (8.60€), Moristel 2015 (9.25€), Paraleta 2015 (10.70€) and Cruz de Los 2015 (24.00€). We also tasted a Bodegas Alodia san sulfitos (6.80€) a blend of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. After our tour and tasting we enjoyed a lunch at the bodega prepared by the family. Many members also visited the nearby cheese factory and made purchases. Our spend at this bodega was 654€.
On our third day, we were scheduled to visit two bodegas. The first was Viñas del Vero which owes its name to a river in the Somontano region, the Vero, The winery was established at the end of 1986 with the acquisition of 550 hectares of land in Barbastro and other nearby towns. In 1987 the land with vineyards of the traditional varieties of the region (Tempranillo, Moristel, Garnacha and Macabeo) began to be replanted, along with others of different origins (Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir). The first wines of the winery appeared on the market in the spring of 1990. In 1987, the company acquired the farm “San Marcos” for the construction of the new winery, which opened in July 1993. In it, the whole process of developing the Viñas del Vero, from the selection of the vintage until aging and bottling was carried out. In 2008, Viñas del Vero became part of the González Byass Family of Wines. Currently, Viñas de Vero is the first winery of the Somontano appellation for its volume and quality of production. The company has one of the largest vineyard areas in Spain, and is one of the leading wineries both for its technology and for the style of its wines. We tasted Gewürztraminer (7.20€), Clarion, a blend of Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay (11.48€), Secastilla, a Garnacha (19.50€) and Blecua also Garnacha (51.00€). These wine prices were at a 25% discount offered to us by the bodega. Our total spend here was 1800€.
The second Bodega we visited was Sommos formerly Bodega Irius. Bodega Sommos is one of the most modern and innovative wineries in Spain. Opening in 2008 this ultra-modern building was constructed by Spanish architect Jesus Marino Pascual. It is buried up to 27 meters underground to maintain the natural conditions for the elaboration of the wines and has been designed to be able to use gravity for the movement of grapes, musts and wine, in this way avoiding the damage caused by the traditional use of pumps. The vineyards cover 355 hectares and the harvesting of the grapes is done at night to avoid the high temperatures of the day and the transport of the grape is carried out in stainless steel trailers with airtight lid, avoiding environmental contamination and temperature changes. The wine is made in French oak vats of 16,000 litres
and in concrete tanks from 8000 litres before starting aging in new French Premium oak barrels. The whole process is automated, the only human intervention coming from people seated at control consoles. The tasting was conducted in a splendid professional tasting room. All white with individual positions each with its own sink, it raised wine tasting to a different level. The Wines we tasted were; SOMMOS Varietales Blanco.(8.50€), SOMMOS Colección Gewürztraminer (9.90€), Alquez SOMMOS Garnacha (8.90), SOMMOS Colección Merlot (17.50€) and SOMMOS Premium (32.00€). After the tour and tasting we enjoyed an excellent lunch in their delightful dining room with spectacular views of the vineyards. Out total spend at the bodega was 961€.
Our final full day in Somontano started with a visit the the Cathedral in Barbastro (Catedral de Santa María de la Asunción) which is a Roman Catholic cathedral. A church at the site was first erected on 5 May 1101, at the site of a mosque by the Saint Bishop Poncio. A new church was rebuilt in the 16th century. The Bell tower was unusually built separate to the cathedral. The present church was erected between 1517 and 1533 and was declared a national monument in 1931. Of interest are the thin columns ending in floral and decorated capitals. The main retablo has scenes dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin and Passion of Christ with a base of alabaster sculpted in a plateresque style. The superior part was carved in wood during 1600 to 1602.
After our visit to the cathedral we went to our last bodega, Bodegas Lalanne which was founded in Bordeaux (France) in the year 1842. The family moved to Spain in 1894, due to the phylloxera that was ravaging the vineyards of most of Europe. They are thus the oldest vineyard in Somontano and now in the fourth generation of the family. When they arrived in Barbastro and specifically at Finca San Marcos, they “fell in love” with it and bought the finca which from then on began to be called “Torre del Americano” in honour of the provenance of the famous rootstocks that Lalanne brought from that continent. It was here that the first plantations of high quality vineyards brought from Bordeaux were made, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay all on American rootstock in order to avoid phylloxera forever. Together with tapas, the wines we tasted were Laura Lalanne blanco Chardonnay (6.85€), Lalanne Classic Crianza 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot (7.85€) and Lalanne reserva 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot (13.85€). A few were lucky enough to taste the Gran reserva. We spent 1980€ at this bodega.
We concluded our visit to the region with a farewell dinner at restaurant Trasiego. The restaurant is located in a unique space that once was Hospital de San Julián built in 1900. A renovated interior design creates a close relationship with Somontano wine, in particular the bar area where we had our pre dinner drinks surrounded by all the bottles of wine produced in Somontano. In the restaurant barrel staves, which in their day hosted the aging of the wines, embrace the room. A great evening was enjoyed by all.
We departed the following morning and broke our journey back to Jávea with an enjoyable lunch at Teruel at which a small presentation was made to the wine trip team in appreciation of their organisation . During the trip we visited the smallest bodega, the oldest bodega, the most modern bodega and the largest in terms of volume production. We arrived back in Javea at 19.30 after an excellent week and having purchased 6,275€ worth of wine to keep us going until the October trip.