Among the top Spanish DOs, D.O. Somontano in northern Spain offers exceptionally balanced, exciting, and above all modern wines. Indeed, Somontano winemakers have taken an innovative approach with an emphasis on technology and experimentation, to make these wines a reference for future wine trends. Located in Aragón near the foothills of the Pyrenees, the soils of Somontano are ideal for grape growing giving them a unique character extremely attractive to modern-day consumers.
Wines From Spain spoke with Mariano Beroz, President of the Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Somontano about the current landscape of Somontano wines, the uniqueness of Aragon varieties and the most remarkable trends coming out of this region.
What is most exciting about wines from Aragón?
Mariano Beroz: The most interesting thing with wines from Aragon lies in the how completely different each of the denominations can be even though we all belong to the same region.
The soil conditions and the specific characteristics of each of the four denominations of origin within Aragon, three in the province of Zaragoza (Calatayud, Campo de Borja and Cariñena) and Somontano, are incredible. For example, here in Somontano, meaning foot of the mountain, in the province of Huesca, we’re at the Feet of the Pyrenees. Our geographic diversity is what allows all of these regions to produce wines of great quality but tremendously different.
What are the trends coming out of the region?
Mariano Beroz: The trends are precisely based on this differentiation. Each denomination has a series of grape varieties that are priority. In some cases more indigenous and in others, with a more international character such as Somontano, which is the smallest but the most different in terms of “terroir” and in terms of soil conditions, the only one in the province of Huesca and the closet to the Pyrenees. That gives a specific and differentiated conditions absolutely not only from the rest of the wine of Spain but the rest of the wines of Aragon. On the other hand, the rest of the Aragonese denominations, located in the province of Zaragoza, base all their surprises on its main variety which is the Garnacha, an indigenous variety that gives great results in the wines of the three denominations. Somontano has the added advantage of having a clearer differentiation of a territory that has allowed to adapt varieties like Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Pinot Noir, among others, with an international recognition giving fantastic wines and making the Denomination of Origin Somontano a denomination of origin with a little more French influence.
In this line the novelties are heading: each D.O. has its strategy according to its varieties and its particular conditions. The three designations of Zaragoza do so with Garnacha wines very well elaborated selecting the plots and the maximum productions per hectare, with more technical and human means and the one of Somontano with an added point of glamor by its size, its large and small wineries, as well as its specific and clearly differentiated microclimates that allow a much wider and varied range of white, rosé, red, young, Crianza, monovarietales, coupages, wines … and with a great price.
What are the signature varietals/wines/ DOs for the region, and how would you describe them?
Mariano Beroz: As mentioned above, the main and distinctive variety of wines made in the Cariñena, Campo de Borja and Calatayud denominations is mostly Garnacha, which is sometimes blended with other native or international grapes, while Somontano is clearly differentiated because we grow international varieties like Chardonnay, Gewürrtraminer, Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon, Syrah or Pinot Noir.
How does the region’s terroir affect the wines?
Mariano Beroz: It’s hugely important! Sometimes we put the example that there is a very important variety in Spain that is the Tempranillo. In Catalonia, it is called Ull de Lliebre; in Rioja, it is Tempranillo or Cencibell; in Ribera del Duero, Tinta Fina; or in Toro, Tinta del Pais. We are talking about the same variety but that behaves absolutely different in each region, in each Denomination of Origin. This reinforces the concept of the D.O. as critical when it comes to having wines with a certain personality beyond the variety, the rootstock, the clone or cultivation techniques. The territory, the climate and the soil definitively mark the character of the wines and strengthens the concept of “Designation of Origin” so that the consumer takes wines of a strengthened personality and their own depending on the territory where they are produced.
Please provide a few food/wine pairing for Aragón wines.
Mariano Beroz: When you do an interview abroad, there is a temptation to seek pairings with native products produced in the region, but for an American audience whose country international cuisine has a great weight and in which Spanish cuisine is getting more and more so the answer is broader.
In that sense, Somontano has an added advantage since many of the varieties grown here are already familiar to people in the United States. In that sense, a pairing for Somontano wines would be no different than these varietals from other regions.