Everyone knows (and talks about) the spectacular beauty of the Sonsierra landscape in autumn, when the vine-leaves change colour and a thousand shades of yellow, ochre and red transform the season into one of the most photogenic and admired.
Surprisingly, however, the Sonsierra landscape is also at its most attractive during winter. The silhouettes of the naked vines, the fog enveloping the outline of the town of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, the crisp winter light, the clear skies, the cold north wind advancing across the Cantabrian Mountains, bringing with it a tumbling cascade of clouds that precipitate over the valley… all these ingredients combine to create images of outstanding beauty, which we invite you to enjoy.
At Bodegas Sonsierra we would like to bring you one of the most deeply rooted and well-known traditions of the Sonsierra: ‘Los Picaos’. In San Vicente de la Sonsierra every year on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday the followers of the Cofradía de la Santa Vera Cruz, or the Brotherhood of Santa Vera Cruz, also known as ‘Los Picaos’ hold a procession through the streets. This is an ancestral tradition that dates back to the XV Century in which the followers rhythmically strike their own backs with skeins of cotton as a form of penitence. Each ‘Picao’ will whip himself around 800-1000 times. El Práctico (the person responsible for alleviating the wounds) will decide when they must stop whipping themselves, when small bruises start to appear. The Práctico will pierce either side of the lumbar region of the back three times, with a utensil called an ‘esponja’. This consists of a ball of beeswax with six crystals embedded in pairs, so they receive twelve punctures symbolising the number of apostles. After this the follower will whip themselves a few more times, so that the blood that may have accumulated in the area can dissipate and thus avoid further problems.
Without a doubt, the photogenic landscape of Sonsierra reaches its zenith of beauty during autumn. The season brings to the fields and vineyards a palette of colours full of subtlety, from reds of all kinds through to the deepest ochre, creating scenes of a truly postcard-worthy nature.
We interviewed Father Fernando Azofra, the parish priest of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, to find out the secrets of the parish church of Santa María La Mayor. The church is one of the most attractive buildings in Sonsierra and a key part of our region’s rich heritage. It was built inside the town’s walls in the 16th century and stood alongside the 12th-century castle of San Vicente and the 13th-century hermitage of Vera Cruz. Together, the buildings comprised a remarkable historic fortified complex that afforded lofty views over the River Ebro from its perch high on the hilltop.
In the Middle Ages, wine was made in the vineyard. This is demonstrated by the numerous stone troughs scattered throughout the Sonsierra. In total, there are nearly 100 distributed among the municipalities of Ábalos, Labastida and San Vicente, where we find most of them. More than 60 stone presses providing proof of the first steps made by our ancestors in the production and processing of wine.
When travellers traverse the trails among the vineyards of Sonsierra, there is something that grabs their attention. It comprises crude circular stone buildings, some of which are pointed on top. Popularly known as 'chozos' or 'guardaviñas', these striking buildings date back to the 19th century when the phylloxera outbreak that affected the French vineyards spurred wine production in La Rioja. Some people, however, suggest they are the heirs to the megalithic building tradition, of which there are many examples in this region