Posted by: tomciocco | March 10, 2013

IROULEGUY – THE BASQUES’ HEAVYWEIGHT WHITE

Wine from the Basque country, to most who are tuned into such things, means just one thing: Txakoli –  the spritzy, chalky, and tart low-alcohol white that gets spilled into big tumblers from high above the head, masterfully done by countless barkeeps in twice that many pintxos bars and restaurants along the Basque coast. It’s a wine meant to be gulped to cut through the often rich and nearly countless types of pinchos, or to compliment the perfectly simple seafood dishes found in beautiful seaside towns like Getaria…

All that however, goes on on the Spanish side of the (somewhat artificial) border. There is a totally different type of Basque white wine from the French side, or Iparralde (literally “The North” in Basque) as it’s known in Basque, that is produced far inland on the sunnier eastern slopes of the Pyrenees, and that shares vineyard space with many a row of red grape vines, and it’s a very small wine region called Irouleguy (ee-ROO-leg-ee).

The Irouleguy growing zone is set in a very mountainous and heavily forested area, with a more extreme climate, both interms of Summer heat and Winter cold, than is typical of the hilly, seaside vineyards that produce Txakoli. White Irouleguy is made from a blend of three local varieties: Gros Manseng (Izkiriota Zuria in Basque), Petit Courbu (Ondaria Zuria), and Petit Manseng (Ichiriota Zuria Ttipia) all of which are more fragrant, better structured, and more complex than the Txakoli grapes (Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Beltza). And when this somewhat exotically bent trio meets a rigid climate and rocky ground, the final product is a perfectly still, alluringly scented, and very well-structured white wine that is better with meatier, fattier fish, poultry, pork, or feathered game than delicate seafood dishes…

So with that in mind, I served this burly, garrulous white with an appetizer of tuna, minced olive, lemon zest, and red pepper flake pintxos, and then a main course of oven baked pork chops with chopped green pepper, onion, tomato, and white wine, with roasted garlic mashed potatoes to accompany.

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Herri Mina Irouleguy Blanc 2010

Bright, slightly greenish, pale golden color. Pungent but elegant aromas of lime, kiwi, caramel flan, freshly cut grass, dried white flowers, and pale honey. The palate is full, deep, unctuous, and intense that is beautifully balanced by a crisp acidity and stony minerality. Big flavors of roasted almonds, apple sauce, yellow cherries, yellow plum nectar, and a mace and ground coriander spiciness. Very long and fresh corn-on-the-cob and quinine finish. An intriguingly  peculiar, bold, but still very refined wine.

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