For years we’ve been nagging you to lay down some of Arretxea’s Irouléguy, and finally we have the liquid proof that these singular Basque wines deserve a place in your cellar. This 2006 Haitza has aged at a glacial pace: still black in color and saturated with wild fruit and grippy tannins, it has many years of life ahead. With some time in a decanter, a different beast emerges, its perfume suggestive of elderberry, wildflowers, pink peppercorn, and espelette, while the mouthfeel reaches a heavenly velveteen apex. Structurally speaking, we are in the realm of old school Cornas, while the caliber of craftsmanship at play is on par with greats like Clape and Verset.
Just after losing his father, Michel Riouspeyrous was raised by his grandfather, with whom he worked the family vineyards. He gravitated towards studies in Agronomy before the mandatory service sent him to Africa. While in Africa, Michel met Thérèse, an Alsatian who was on vacation. They married and returned to Michel’s home in the Southwest. In 1989, they started their own domaine by renting 2 ha. The decision to farm organically came instantaneously to Michel. Once certified as organic, they pushed on towards biodynamics. For the couple, it just translates into a more authentic expression. A mere glimpse of their vineyards, amid beautiful wildflowers, set against the Pyrénées, makes it easy to see what inspired such a decision.
Tucked away beneath Bordeaux and buffeted by the Pyrenees to the south, this expansive region of France, commonly known as the Southwest, is home to a diverse number of viticulture and gastronomic traditions as well as cultures. Though Cahors might be the most well known (and easiest to pronounce) appellation from the Southwest, the importance and influence of French Basque culture cannot be underestimated. Irouléguy, the primary appellation of the Basque region of France produces full-bodied, hearty red wines, produced from Tannat grape (known for its tannic qualities). Dry whites from Irouléguy are also produced from Petit and Gros Manseng. Northeast of Irouléguy is the sweet wine-producing appellation of Jurançon. These moelleux wines made from Petit and Gros Manseng have a storied history in France, from being the first wine region to have a vineyard classification, which dates back to the 154th century, to being preferred wine of royalty dating back to the 16th century as well as the French poet Colette.
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