Showing posts with label Basque Country. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Basque Country. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

My Introduction to the Wines of Irouleguy


My Introduction to the Wines of Irouleguy

Irouleguy, not far from the Pyrenees, is among the smallest of the French appellations. It is situated in the Pays Basque and is the only AOC there.

This June, I bought some wines after a tasting in La Cave Irouleguy in the town of St Etienne de Baigorry, which is 32 miles inland from Biarritz. The wines are excellent and the AOC is well worth a visit if you are holidaying on that lovely stretch of the Atlantic Coast.

The grapes used for the red wines are Tannat, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. For the whites, they use Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng and Courbu. For me, the highlight was a rosé, which had no less than 80% Tannat!


Argi D’Ansa, Rosé 2011, 12.5%
This is a rich looking pink with a fruity (strawberry) nose. It is fruity and dry, entirely loveable and gluggable. Love at first swallow.

The stern reputation of Tannat can put punters off. “The man’s grape” you hear. Maybe so. But add in 10% Cab Sauv and 10% Cab Franc and you end up with this gem or, at least, the winemakers of Irouleguy did! If you do get down that way, look out for this Gold Medal winner at Paris 2012.

Xuri, White 2011, 14%
Has a clean golden colour, with complex aromas: fruity and floral. On the palate, it is fresh and fruity, full and elegant, dry and well balanced, second glass appeal. Pronounced Churi, is has been aged on its lees in barrels and casks. It won a Silver medal in Paris 2012. I’d have given it Gold!

Grapes: Gros Manseng 60%, Petit Manseng 30%, Courbu 10%.

Andere D’Ansa, White 2011, 13.5%
This is a Gold medal winner from Paris 2012. It has been two months on lees and the grapes used are Gros Manseng (80%) and Petit Manseng.

Colour is a lovely clean Gold/Green and the nose is aromatic with minty herby hints. On the palate it is dry and fruity (mango, citrus and pineapple). It is fresh and zingy with a sharp finish. Said to go well with fish (including shellfish), sheeps cheese (Including the local Ossau Iraty), Asian cuisine and may be also drank as an aperitif. Another good one.

Gorri D’Ansa, Red 2009, 13.5%
This red, a Gold Medal winner at Paris 2011, has a dark ruby colour and black fruit aromas with hints of white pepper. On the palate it is fruity and slightly spicy with active tannins. This is nicely rounded, a wine of character but perhaps not for beginners. Recommended for lamb, duck and cheese.

The fruit is hand harvested and most of the reds have a high proportion of the Tannat grape. This, with 60%, is no exception. The other grapes are 30% Cab Franc and 10% Cab Sauv.

Premia, Red 2010, 12.5%
Tough going on the steep terraced slopes of Irouleguy and they don’t want to waste all that hard work on crap wines. Quality is the over-riding aim and they achieve it quite regularly as they do here.
This is dark red with a nose of red fruits (Raspberry for me) and floral notes. It has excellent balance, is tasty and fruity, smooth with a good long aromatic finish. Superb match for grilled meats, charcuterie and cheese.

Domaine de Mignaberry, Red 2010, 13.5%
I’m told this is a pretty good one but I’m also told to hold on to it for another three to five years. Will do my best!
The blend is 60% Tannat, 20% Cab Sauv and 20% Cab Franc.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Txakoli, the Basque Wine

Missed!
4 weeks in the Basque Country

Txakoli, the Basque Wine
Way to do it!

Aitako Txakolina 2010, Getariako (Spain), 11.5%



Txakoli (or Chacolí in Spanish) is a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol. It is the wine of the Basque Country (Euskadi) which has provinces on each side of the French-Spanish border on the Atlantic coast.

Getariko (Getaria) is a lovely coastal town between San Sebastian and Bilbao and centre of one of the major producing areas. The major grape used in this bottle is Hondarribi Zuri.

The wine, as far as I know, is not exported to Ireland but apparently has strong sales in the USA where Basque cuisine is highly regarded and where the lower alcohol levels are attractive.

This one is somewhat more advanced, more complex, than your ordinary Txakoli (meant to be poured and drunk quickly). The bubbles and acidity are there but the flavours don’t vanish after the initial pouring, though the “head” does.

Properly poured!
The Aitako vineyard say they have made a careful selection, have harvested at the optimum time and have fermented at low temperatures for a more intense aroma. The wine has also benefited from being raised on its own lees as this “gives volume, smoothness and balance in the mouth.”

While this bottle, bought in a wine shop in the main street in Getaria, a town I visited three times during a recent holiday, is undoubtedly the best I’ve tasted, I will happily say that I also enjoyed more modest efforts.

As a visitor, I was delighted to be able to try out this unfamiliar wine in the local restaurants – while it is produced in Spain, it is drunk on both sides of the border.

One of the unusual elements is that it is poured from a height, from about two feet above the glass, usually a sturdy tumbler, the intent being to increase the bubbles and release the flavours. It sure added to the novelty and the fun. Still does, especially if you try it yourself!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dining with Serge Blanco & A Town full of peppers







DAY 5
May 30th, Wednesday
More pics from this trip here

Lots on today but let us start at the end, in La Pinta, a restaurant, one of many businesses owned by former French rugby international Serge Blanco. We called up there this evening to his Bodega, Bar, Restaurant, Cideria, on the spit of land between the port and beach of Hendaye and signed on for the €32.00 Menu Cidrerie. 
Basically, it was a five course meal. And over its course you were free to drink as much cider (from the barrels) as you could manage. Wow! From start to finish this was top notch and we enjoyed it very much.
Almost  as soon as we put in the order, a jug of cider (the cloudy dry local variety) and a basket of bread appeared on the table. Then came the aperitif: a spicy local sausage in a cider sauce.
Next up was the starter, a cod omelette. Never had a fish omelette before but this was the business. Cod also featured in the fish dish, grilled in the local manner and served with fried peppers and onions. Absolutely spot on.
Now for the big one as a smoking hot piece of beef still cooking in the pan was delivered to the table along with a plateful of salad and another of French fries. Cooked the beef bit by bit and ate away to our hearts’ content. Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned the word heart here. But the beef was irresistible.
Time to close it out now, though the cider still flowed on. The final dish was a cheese, Fromage de Bebris, made from ewes’ milk in the nearby Pyrenees. A gorgeous cheese served with a quince pate and whole walnuts (with a nut cracker in the basket). A terrific finish to a very enjoyable meal.



The day had also begun with food as we visited the Wednesday market in the centre of Hendaye. Found a free range pig farmer and got a few slices of his top notch cured ham along with a wedge of another famous local cheese: Iraty Ossau, also made from sheep milk. Other bits and pieces included a Black Cherry cake, strawberries and olives.


In the afternoon, with a cloudy haze coming in over the mountains, we aborted a trip to the top of the La Rhune mountain and visited a few nearby Basque villages, include Sare where we saw an unusual multi-galleried church and the more usual fronton (where kids were trying their hand at pelota, though without the racket).



Then on to the village of Espelette, famous for its sweet red peppers which they hang on the walls to dry. They were on the Post Office wall, on the Spar wall, on the Hotel wall, everywhere. Got some at a local producer and a few other bits and pieces, including a first bottle of the local Txakoli wine,  before visiting a local chocolatier where we took on a bus load of pensioners and emerged  from the scrum with a couple of bags of the tasty stuff for ourselves.