Picture: Domaine Brana/Irouleguy/France
We had drinks at Cork Wine Bar, a wine bar with a lot of off the beaten track French wines on 14th Street in Washington DC, NW and discovered that they had the
Appelation Iroulegy Controlee
St. Jean Pied de Port, France
on their list.
Irouleguy is a tiny wine region in the Basque country in the South West of France, virtually unknown outside of France, but an AC region. The Basque country covers areas both in Spain and France. The Irouleguy is considered to be the wine of the French part of the Basque country and it goes very well with Basque food., which is hearty and a bit spicy.
We were in the Basque Country earlier this year and had the Domaine Brana Rouge in a restaurant in St. Jean de at the coast near Biarizze. Tpically, the Irouleguy Rouge have a deep dark colour with a high level of alcohol. These are full bodied wines. As the Brana Rouge opens in the glass, the dried herbs and green peppers meet the nose, followed by a wave of tannin with raspberry aromas. Already then, I was overwhelmed by the wine’s inherently sauvage nature.
The winery Etienne Brana exist since 1897 in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the heart of the Basque country. The primary grape variety is the Tannat, complemented by Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
The Madiran in the Gascony, further up south, is a similar wine with a strong Tannat component. Tannat in Irouleguy and Madiran is what the Malbec is in the near-by Cahors region. It is the dominating grape. At the same time, in the New World, Malbec has become the trademark of Argentina wine. Similarly, the Tannat grape has become the trademark in neigbouring Uruguay. It was introduced by Basque settlers in the 19th century.
In the Washington DC area, the wine is being imported by Wine Traditions. In Frankfurt, I had a nice Bearn at Jacques’ winedepot .