Jose Javier Echandi is the technical director and winemaker of Bodegas Sommos in Somontano, Spain. He is a winemaker who puts his knowledge, experience and passion inside of every single bottle of wine he produces. This will be our chance to know him better: how he started his career in the wine sector, how he ended up working in Chile and finally how he visions the wines that he is currently making.
Although he hadn’t got a lot of exposure to wine growing up, by the time he was in university, he started to be fascinated by the chemistry of food and aromas, as well as by edaphology and soil science. The life took Javier to work as a cellar operator in Baron de Ley in Rioja, Spain at the age twenty four. There, he started to fall in love with winemaking, how grape juice transforms to wine, by changing the aromas day by day. That was when he knew that he should link his life to the world of wine, and started his oenology studies at the University of La Rioja, Spain.
From Spain to Chile
Life continued to change the course of Javier’s destiny. While he was studying at the University of La Rioja he found out a possibility to make a harvest in Chile. First, he was not very interested, but then he said “why not?” and signed up for a different experience. When he arrived in Chile, he didn’t know about the country, but it did not take him too much to fall in love with the country and its wines, and many other things. He made his first harvest in 2008 in Santa Cruz Vineyard in Colchagua Valley, he returned to Chile in 2009, and finally in 2012 he joined the team of Errazuriz Vineyards, to work in Caliterra Winery, where he was the winemaker for five years.
Javier describes his experience in Chile as follows:
“The experience in Chile was incredible in every way, it is where I have developed myself as a winemaker and I have been fortunate to work with one of the best groups in the world, next to great winemakers, where quality, perfection and searching for authenticity become a way of life. Chile is a wonderful country, full of contrasts, where everything is lived very intensely.”
Javier’s involvement in wine in Chile was not only through Caliterra, he came together with three of his wine friends to produce a small lot wine from Sauvignon vert grapes, produced close to Pacific Ocean by small farmers. After making some vinifications with these grapes for a couple of seasons, the group of friends decided to take it to next level and label their wines by creating a small company called “The PO’ Wine Project”. The wine already took the attention of the wine guide called Guía Vinau that evaluates small production wines in Chile.
Back to Spain
Javier’s Chilean adventure ended in July 2017, he returned to Spain to embark on an exciting project of Bodega Sommos. Bodega Sommos is a winery situated in the heart of Somontano. At first glance, the incredible architecture of the winery takes the attention. But, there is more than just a beautiful building, Javier explains.
“In Sommos everything is special and different from the rest of the wineries, to a certain extent: Starting from the vineyard, which is full of particularities in the plantation design and in the viticulture management, up to our technological and functional winery, which allows us to be very respectful with the grapes. For example, during winemaking, we practically do not use pumps, and processes such as grape reception, pump-overs, etc. are done by gravity. I always say that all this technology is at the service of quality and allows us to optimize processes, make everything more comfortable and simple.”
Wines of Bodegas Sommos
Coming back from Chile, Javier brought a lot of memories with him, but also some New World influence in his winemaking style. The technical work behind the scenes was all about transferring the know-how to produce wines that reflect style of modernity, innovation and design. It was not after his arrival that the wines started to receive comments of being “most Chilean wines in Spain”. Javier enjoys this comment, since it is his signature on the wines they are making in Bodega Sommos.
Javier has a mission to introduce modern wines to Spanish consumers. These are the wines produced with innovative techniques and haven’t gone through a long aging process, as in the case of most of other Spanish denominations of origin. Javier believes in this style and explains the modernity of the wines of Bodega Sommos as follows:
“When I talk about our modern or innovative wines with our customers, I always give them the same example: When you go to a restaurant with modern cuisine, what you want to eat is a designed menu, elaborated with techniques that sound like science fiction … and you don’t want to eat a plate of lentils like our grandmothers used to make. It’s the same in winemaking, we have to know how to transfer these concepts to the world of wine.”
Javier is happy to be a part of a young and passionate team of Bodega Sommos and that is exactly where their strength is coming from. Their plan is to keep their image and our style, continue to bring new wines to the market and work with this increasing passion.
More wines with Javier
Before letting Javier continue with his busy schedule of harvesting and winemaking, I challenged him by asking a wine that surprised him lately and his favorite wine styles.
Javier revealed the wine that surprised him a couple of months ago, which was a white wine from a small producer in La Rioja. It was called Costumbres from the winery Vinos en Voz Baja (it translates in English as wines with low voices), the winemaker is Carlos Mazo. The wine was a blend of minority white grapes produced in La Rioja, it impressed Javier with its freshness and above all the elegance in the palate. It was a great discovery, as Javier describes.
Finally, when I asked Javier about his favorite wine style, his first answer was: “Good question, but I never know how to answer it!” And he explained:
“The truth is that I don’t have a favorite style or wines that I repeat drinking. As a music fan, the same thing happens to me with wines, it depends on the moment, the company, the mood… It may sound like a cliché, but sometimes the simplest wine is spectacular if you know how to pair it at a special moment. I think everything has its time. Always (or almost always) behind a wine of wine there is a story to be told and to be known. That’s why, I try everything I can, native or foreign varieties, large wineries or more independent projects. In that sense, I don’t have any prejudices.”
Javier told us all about his wine path and transmitted his vision of innovative techniques and modern wines through this interview. But this is not enough. To be able to have a total understanding of these words, it’s necessary to taste his wines. His wines would be more meaningful than these hundreds of words together.
This was the wine story of Jose Javier Echandi in a nutshell: A story that continues in every single wine he produces, and in every sip that is enjoyed by the consumers.