DO Somontano Masterclass

Personally, I’ve not tasted a below par wine from DO Somontano. So, when I was able to secure a place at the recent Masterclass, presented by the Consejo Regulador, Ruling Council, of the DO itself, I was, of course, delighted. I was keen to learn more as well as have my expectations confirmed. I wasn’t disappointed!


Personally, I’ve not tasted a below par wine from DO Somontano. So, when I was able to secure a place at the recent Masterclass, presented by the Consejo Regulador, Ruling Council, of the DO itself, I was, of course, delighted. I was keen to learn more as well as have my expectations confirmed. I wasn’t disappointed!

This was the second DO Masterclass of the Wine Professionals Sector tasting day organised by Verema (, whose tasting session I also attended last year. I’m hoping to be there again next year and into the future too – they are excellent!

In direct contrast to the presentation by DO Almansa in the earlier session, DO Somontano’s was, typically, very professional. Although the DO isn’t that old (established 1984, where DO Rioja, for example, was founded in the 20s) they are nevertheless experienced old hands at promoting their wines and their member bodegas.

DO Somontano isn’t shy about the number of varieties they allow for their wines – fifteen in total, eight red wine grape varieties and seven for the whites. Whilst there is a fair showing of indigenous Spanish varieties included, championed perhaps by the almost uniquely grown Moristel, there is also a significant contribution from international varieties such as Cab Sauv and Gewurztraminer, the latter being particularly loved here.

The first wine up, though, was a Chardonnay, which I identified before seeing the label – noted here, not to brag about my ability in such matters, more to boast on Somontano’s behalf about their ability to recreate classic Chardonnay characteristics, when this variety is so far away from its natural home in Burgundy, France! Fresh with bright acidity though rounded too, with food friendly buttery notes as well as a slight banana skin nose. Bodegas Viñas del Vero 2018. Good start!

Gewurz was up next, from Bodegas Enate. A lovely wine with a mandarin/clementine spritz on the nose aiding and abetting the typical fresh lychee aroma of this German/Alsace variety. Plus, as an added bonus, there was slight bitter lemon (as in the drink) flavour on the finish. Oh how I wish that the Chinese restaurants in our area were aware of the pairing possibilities of this variety with their cuisine!

The above two varieties were in tandem in the next sample, but with the very interesting addition of Pinot Noir (18%, a black grape, of course, therefore a touch of the blanc de noir about this Bodegas Sommos wine). The varieties were fermented separately and when blended together they underwent a touch of French oak barrel ageing for good measure. Some complexity and depth of flavour with a Chardonnay nose and a little spicy Gewurz, plus presence on the palate from the Pinot.

There aren’t many 100% Moristel wines, it being used more to blend – perhaps the offering from Bodegas Pirineos gives us a clue as to why? Cherries and black pepper on the nose, there was a slightly burnt wholemeal toast aroma, pleasant, but unusual, given that there has been no oak contact? For me it was a little too acidic. So, maybe best to use it to add freshness to other ripe varieties, rather than use it as is?

The next wine was outstanding! Old vine Garnacha from Bodegas Obergo, a new winery to me. It’s the 2015 vintage which has clearly enjoyed its year in mostly French oak, with regular stirring of the lees. There is some menthol on the nose, with forest fruits coming through. It’s a deeply flavoured, textured wine with pleasing complexity, perhaps understandable, given the vineyard’s close proximity to those of Secastilla, an honoured wine from this DO.

The next wine is the only Gran Reserva wine in the DO. Made by Bodegas Sers, this Cabernet/Merlot/Syrah from the 2012 vintage has been kept for 24 months in medium toasted French barrricas, with a further 40 months in bottle. It’s a big 14·5% abv, though with a touch of subtlety as well. A great mouthful, very meat orientated food friendly too.

The final wine of this very impressive tasting was the 2011 Grillo, which had been aged in 100 French oak Barrels, following its fermentation in 4 hectolitre capacity French oak foudres, and making use of Syrah, Cab Sauv, Garnacha and Merlot. Almost black in the glass, this opaque wine retails at about 35€, but it’s worth it, for sure! You’ll find figs and liquorice on the nose and palate too, with earthy undergrowth notes and a long, thought provoking finish. Excellent wine! Super tasting all round!  You Tube Colin Harkness On Wine Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness

Paso Primero


A wren, as a matter of fact! The rather cute emblem of Bodegas Paso-Primero which features on their labels giving a visual clue as to how the name was derived, as well as a sizable hint as the laudable philosophy of this new winery DO Somontano, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Let’s deal with the name first. Paso Primero translates to First Step, indeed the label of their first wines makes this clear as our friend the wren is on the bottom rung of a ladder, looking upwards. Why? Read on!

For me it’s refreshing to hear a British twist on a Spanish winemaking story that I’ve mentioned several times in Cork Talk. I’m not alone in saying that the Spanish wine scene is one of the most dynamic in the  world – Sara Jane Evans MW writes the same thing in her book, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, my review archived here (

There are many young Spanish winemakers, who, with one foot in the traditional winemaking of generations of their family, have stepped with the other, firstly though the doors of higher education at dedicated wine making colleges and/or have taken university degrees in Oenology; and thence into the winemaking of other countries, sometimes including journeying to the southern hemisphere too.

The result is a really comprehensive knowledge of how wine is made, from so many different perspectives, including that of their father, and, in true Monty Python style, that of their Father’s Fathers and so on! Well, our British winemakers, Tom and Emma Holt, once co-workers in Tanners famous wine merchants in Shrewsbury, UK, have, sort of, done the same! Their passion for wine started whilst in the retail trade, took them to Plumpton College, the UK seat of higher wine education which is developing an enviable reputation in the wine world, and then on their travels to New Zealand and Canada to make wine, of course.

Keen on making wine in what was once invariably referred to as ‘the Old World’, in wine terms at least, they finally settled on the idea of making wine here in Spain. To be specific in DO Somontano, where they joined forces in a collaborative project with *Batan de Salas. Paso-Primero was born ( It’s good to hear of such Spanish/British entente cordial (the more so in these difficult times!) – each winery, working within the same buildings, using the same vineyards and equipment, has its own identity, yet each ‘partner’ contributes to the other’s winemaking.   

Their artistically labelled (, Paso-Prima Chardonnay, the first of three wines sent for me to taste on behalf of Cork Talk readers, gives us a heads-up re the philosophy of Paso-Primero. 25% of the profit from the sale of this wine will be donated to the British Trust for Ornithology (, which is wholly compatible with Tom and Emma’s insistence on their project being sustainable, Responsible winemaking, and some!

I spent time thinking about the title of this week’s column – toying with, ‘It’s Chardonnay, Jim, but not as we know it!’ inspired, claro, by my impressions of this, the first wine of the triumvirate, and hoping to add some Trekkies to my weekly readers!

I’m not sure I would have picked this out as a Chardonnay at a blind tasting, and that’s a compliment, not the reverse! I guess a lot of one’s perception of Chardonnay depends upon which generation one belongs to? Baby Boomers like myself (yes, I know, I look a lot younger!) may remember, with splinters, the over oaked, well, disasters, of the 80s, floating on a log raft from Australia and California. Generation X may remember some occasionally too austere examples, made in an effort to redress the balance. And Millennials will hopefully remember Chardonnays where the majority of winemakers got it right!

Perhaps Tom and Emma’s Spanish Chardonnay will be quoted as exemplary by the current Generation Z (who invents this stuff?) in future such discussions? Too high a praise? Well, probably, but it’s certainly a lovely wine, with some fresh citrus notes, a combination of browning and already brown Autumn leaves on the nose and subtle tropical fruit, mango for me, on the palate.

30ºC temperatures are not conducive to tasting red wines with a 15% and 15·5% abv, respectively! However if you chill down Paso-Primero 2018 and its older sister, Paso-Prima 2017 during such hot weather you’ll be surprised how effective it can be! I really enjoyed them both!

Made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo, this wine reflects the best that was possible for the 2018 vintage – again wholly in line with the bodega’s philosophy. Their website explains all – ‘ . . . each vintage being a completely unique snapshot of history. Wine should be a wonderful combination of a sense of place and sense of time . .’ They don’t promise that the following vintage will have the same blend, there won’t be a constant style for this wine, it will depend on the grapes harvested following the year’s growing conditions, which is just right in my book!

A touch of vanilla on the nose, combines with good fruit, though difficult to determine exactly which are the dark berries that come through, plus a pleasing autumnal aroma of browning leaves and already fallen leaves. On the palate the fruit finishes nicely with a little liquorice at the end. UK price under 9 pounds, Spain under 10€ – very good value!  

The Paso-Prima 2017 Vino Artístico is made with Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon and has an aroma of well done wholemeal toast with a touch of black pepper, blending perfectly with brambly blackberry fruit (I’ve just tasted a large juicy blackberry then the wine!). It’s a 6€ or so step up in price, though certainly worth it. Ripe sweet tannins and some acidity will ensure a few more years of fine drinking.

* – watch this space!

Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness