Somontano: Ripe for picking

The Somontano region of northern Spain deserves a surge in interest, not just from the discerning drinker drifting from Rioja but from the average consumer. González Byass plans to make that potential a reality.

Sarah Jane Evans presents a masterclass on Somontano

Sarah Jane Evans MW presents a masterclass on Somontano

IT’S OFTEN said that selling Spanish wine sourced from beyond Rioja’s boundaries is difficult. Because the wine from this single area is so well liked and well known, there seems little incentive for the trade or shopper to try something else. But while a more knowledgeable consumer is increasingly sampling labels from regions such as Rías Baixas or Ribera del Duero, a DO such as Somontano is still under the average drinker’s radar. And that’s a shame. Not only is this area home to some of the country’s best wines, but also a broad and distinctive array of styles, including fine examples made from old vine native grapes as well as international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay – rarities within Spain. However, Somontano’s relative obscurity is something one Spanish wine business wants to correct.

Key findings from the masterclass 
• Somontano still lies under the average drinker’s radar, despite being home to some of the country’s best wines and a broad, distinctive
array of styles.
• Spanish producer González Byass is keen to remind the trade that Somontano is ripe for discovery.
• The relatively recent French influence on the region is crucial to the character of Somontano wines.
• Established in 1984, Somontano is one of Spain’s youngest DOs and has grown rapidly from an area which only supplied the local market to one gaining international recognition and following.
• The fruit-growing potential for the region is not limited to grapes – as one of the participants illustrated with the story of 1kg tomato.

Having acquired two wineries in the region, Viñas del Vero and Blecua, González Byass is keen to remind the trade that Somontano is ripe for discovery. The company, renowned as the producer of Tio Pepe Sherry, may have wineries in Rioja (Beronia) and Cava (Vilarnau), Castilla La Mancha (Finca Constancia), and Cádiz (Finca Moncloa), but has chosen Somontano as the source region for a new brand, as well as the subject for a trade tasting and masterclass in London. Consequently in July, González Byass asked UK-based Spanish wine expert Sarah Jane Evans MW (pictured above) to present an introduction to the region, while the drinks business provided an audience of influential buyers and opinion formers.

“It’s a land of contrasts”, began Evans at the event, which was held at London’s Hospital Club, alluding primarily to the geography and climate. With the ski slopes of the Pyrenees just 40km away from the vineyards, the region is high, with cold nights and snow in winter, but its inland location ensures hot and dry summers.

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