Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Other Basque Country

Eric Asimov recently wrote about Txakolina, the wines from Getaria in Spain's Basque country. The region also extends into France. The appellation of Irouléguy occupies about 500 acres in the Pyrenees, 20 miles to the south of Biarritz.

A brief history, cribbed from Paul Strang: The region has been producing wine since the Middle Ages, although production very nearly ended when phylloxera arrived in 1912. A few vignerons kept the faith, and AOC status was granted in 1970. That was the year the Brana family moved to St. Jean Pied-du-Port, where Etienne Brana decided to go into the distilling business (the family produces top-quality eaux-de-vie to this day). His son, Jean, was friends with Jean-Claude Berrouet (Chateau Petrus), one thing led to another, and the first Domaine Brana wines appeared in 1989.

One of the Brana family's best wines is also one of the least expensive.

Domaine Brana Irouléguy "Ohitza" 2007: This is a blend of 50% Tannat, 30% Cabernet Franc, and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon (Thanks to David McDuff for correcting the proportions). It opens with a nose of black currant, plum, sweet red pepper, and a hint of roast meat. The palate follows with more black and purple fruit, a hint of black licorice, and mouthwatering acidity. Tannat is famously tannic, but here the tannins seem fully ripe; they barely make themselves known until well into the finish. I also pick up a bit of mineral character.

Wines from Irouléguy are commonly characterizes as "rustic," but I don't get that at all--there is a polished, almost Bordeaux-like quality here.

Here's a link to the Brana website (French only).


David McDuff said...

Delicious wine, Dave, and one that I miss drinking as often as I once did.

Hate to be a stickler, but I think you may be off a bit on the proportions of the blend. Brana's reds generally have a much lower proportion of Tannat than what you've mentioned. According to Brana's website, the '07 is a blend of 50% Tannat, 30% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon — fairly typical for "Ohitza" if I'm not mistaken.

There's an '03 waiting in my staging area (along with an '04 "Ilori" blanc). I'll let you know how they show.

The Wine Mule said...

You're not being a stickler, you're right. Thanks, David!