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It’s a quirky little DO to outsiders, but to the Spanish, Somontano represents modernity and hipness. Locked into the foothills of the Pyrenees, there are steep valleys, outcrops of limestone, deposits of stony clay, sand, and more limestone. The vineyards are watered by the Vero and Cinca Rivers (the Cinca is a tributary of the Ebro), and above it all looms the almost continuously snow–capped mountains. Therein lies the name—Somontano: “under the mountains.”

As favored by nature as the vineyards might be, the DO’s remarkable rise is still a bit of a surprise. But in the 1980s, a triad of local powers, private investors, and banking entities decided to promote Somontano’s decidedly international style wines (or at least grapes), and their timing was ideal. French varieties were not new here (the French family Lalanne planted them at the beginning of the twentieth century), but that business eventually disappeared into the economic morass of Spain’s worst century. So Cabernet, Merlot, and others are not new to the region’s vitivinicultors and they seem to have a deft hand in blending these and other grapes with Spanish grapes. There are also two interesting indigenous varieties that do well: Parraleta (usually soft and spicy) and the even more promising light, fruity and tangy Moristel.

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