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.