Ultimate Guide to the Somontano Wine Region

The Somontano wine region, which is home to 30 vineyards, produces 14.3 million liters of wine every year. See more wine pictures.
The Somontano wine region, which is home to 30 vineyards, produces 14.3 million liters of wine every year. See more wine pictures.
iStockphoto/Sandra Campos


The art of wine production is a skill now treasured on all ends of the Earth. In greatly differing climates, even spanning the hemispheres, producers have perfected grape cultivation, resulting in a variety of exceptional wines. While great viticulture is found all around, few would disagree with the idea that Europe is the world's wine expert. There, centuries of experimentation and practice have produced countless examples of remarkable wine.


The Somontano wine region is located in northern Spain, surrounded on all sides by five other recognized wine regions. Found at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains, Somontano has its own Denominacion de Origen (DO), which was created in 1984. The DO is a labeling system and assurance of quality for Spanish wines that is modeled after the Italian DOC.

­­The region has 30 vineyards and covers roughly 11,370 acres (4,600 hectares) of land. Today, it produces 14.3 million liters of wine every year [source: DOSomontano]. The combination of the region's consistent climate and its long practiced cultivation techniques has made the area a reputable name in the world of viticulture.

The growth and success of the region is due greatly in part to four main wineries -- Enate, Bodegas, Prineos and Vinas del Vero. In their history, these wineries have striven to stay on the cutting edge of winemaking by investing in the latest technology, hiring renowned winemakers and putting emphasis on building the wine tourism industry [source: Cellar Tours]. Spain already has a great number of tourists each year, but these organizations have efforts to provide thorough and public tours of their facilities to spark further interest in their industry.

This article will provide an overview of Somontano, from its history, to its agriculture and finally, to the specific wines that have made Somontano the famed region that it is today.


Somontano Wine Region History and Culture

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Viticulture is a long-standing tradition in Somontano, dating as far back as the 2nd century B.C. [source: NationMaster]. At this time, Italic people were settling the region, and many had already worked in wine production. They not only brought their techniques to the area, but also brought their native grapes and wines [sources: NationMaster, DOSomontano].


It was the Middle Ages that really helped shaped the Somontano region we know today. At this time, almost the entire region was covered with vineyards, due largely in part to the abundant monasteries. Wine had become an important part in many religious ceremonies and gatherings. In fact, monks are widely recognized as key players in the evolution of wine production. In Somontano, the monks expanded the cultivation of wine and built a strong relationship with France, exporting their Spanish wine to this close neighbor. The relationship would prove to be extremely beneficial in the future.

In the 19th century, a breakout of Phylloxera spread across France, wreaking havoc on the grape vines and halting wine production. The ties Somontano had with French cities came into play, and Somontano wine production had to be increased so the foreign demand could be met. Sales and exports -- not only to France -- went up as people everywhere were looking for quality wine [sources: Harley].

While the region had been in the wine production business for ages, it wasn't until the early 1970s that they took the next big step toward ensuring their industry fame. In 1974, Somontano applied for DO status. It took a hefty amount of time, but almost 11 years later, the region gained approval [source: Harley].


Somontano Wine Region Agriculture

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As with many southern European countries, it's easy to picture the vast vineyards of Somontano. The world has learned to count on this region and others near it, to produce great wines. Their consistent performance in the wine industry can be attributed not only to the cultivation practices, but to their appropriate climates as well.


Somontano has a climate that is ideally suited to grape growing. Each year has a cold snowy winter and a warm summer. The only slight instability is that there isn't much of a fall or spring, but instead there are rather drastic changes from one end of the temperature spectrum to the other [source: Cellar Tours]. The land can face as many as 2,700 hours of direct sunlight each year, which when paired with the cool nights and winters, presents almost perfect conditions for vine growth.

The soil of Somontano has proven a strong asset as well. Its lime content produces great vines, as this type of soil allows roots to grow deep and strongly establish themselves. Roots that are able to do this have an easier time absorbing necessary moisture and nutrients.

The rainfall in the region does call on certain areas to do more work than others must. Northern and western regions see plenty of rain, but as you move south or east, the amount drops as the temperature increases. These warmer, drier areas sometimes require more manual watering and maintenance.


Famous Wines of the Somontano Wine Region

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The Somontano wine region has its hand in the production of many types of grapes. With their long history and strong grape growing climate, countless varieties of wine are bottled each year. As such, there isn't a particular wine that is strongly associated with this Spanish region.


Unlike many regions worldwide, Somontano has grapes that are indigenous to the area. These help produce the "rustic" wines that have been in the area since the early years of cultivation [source: Cellar Tours]. The grapes that originated in Somontano are the Moristel, Parraleta and Alcañón [source: Harley]. The first two are used for red wines while the latter produces whites.

Presently, many varieties of grape grow in the area. In addition to the indigenous varieties listed above, several other types of grapes -- other Spanish grapes and some foreign varieties -- are grown in Somontano. The possible combinations of these grapes are plentiful and therefore, Somontano provides the world with great variety.

Red grapes cultivated in Somontano include:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Garnacha
  • Merlot
  • Moristel
  • Parraleta
  • Pinot Noir
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo

[source: NationMaster

White varieties grown in Somontano include:

  • Alcañón
  • Chardonnay
  • Garnacha Blanca
  • Macabeo
  • Gewürztraminer

[source: NationMaster]

Before you book your flight to Somontano, visit the links on the next page for additional wine-related information.


Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Cellar Notes. "Phylloxera." (Accessed 02/10/2009)           http://www.cellarnotes.net/phylloxera.html
  • Cellar Tours. "Profile of Wine Regions, Somontano: Wineries in Somontano Region. (Accessed 02/10/2009)                                                                                 http://www.cellartours.com/spain/spanish-wine-regions/somontano.html
  • Costa Tropica. "Somontano, forgotten wine of Spain." (Accessed 02/10/2009) http://www.costatropicalnews.com/articles-on-the-costa-tropical/costa-tropical-andalucia-spain-food-drink/somontano-forgotten-wine-of-spain/
  • DOSomontano. "D.O. Somontano." (Accessed 02/10/2009)                        http://www.dosomontano.com
  • Espavino. "The wine region DO Somontano." (Accessed 02/09/2009) http://www.espavino.com/spain_wine_region/wines_somontano.php
  • Harley, Hal. "Exploring wine - Somontano." Think Spain. Aug. 29, 2003. (Accessed 02/10/2009) http://www.thinkspain.com/news-spain/290
  • NationMaster. "Somontano." (Accessed 02/09/2009) http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Somontano
  • Somontano. "The wines of Denomination of Somotano's Origin." (Accessed 02/10/2009) http://www.somotano.org/en/turismo_cont_conoce.asp?m=vinos
  • Spain. "Wine Routes - Somontano Wine Route." (Accessed 02/10/2009) http://www.spain.info/TourSpain/Rutas%20Vino/0/Ruta%20del%20vino%20de%20somontano?language=