The Irouleguy cellar, in the heart of the Pays Basque

Irouléguy
Share The Irouleguy cellar, in the heart of the Pays Basque
The Irouleguy cellar, ...
Often considered a refuge of authenticity , best known for its cheeses and cold meats, the Basque Country also has a remarkable vineyard, a few kilometers from Saint-Jean-Pied de Port. Go to Saint-Etienne-de Baïgorry to discover the Irouleguy Cellar, which has been producing Irouleguy wine since 1952, the only wine from the Basque Country. This cellar represents 60% of the AOC Irouleguy vineyard, it is the smallest cooperative in France in mountain vineyards. Meeting with Christophe Mazaud, General Manager of the Cooperative Cellar and Clarisse Bouyer, Communication Officer for a visit and a vintage tasting !

Pays Basque
Irouleguy the village

In the heart of the Basque Country

Cave Irouleguy

Meeting with Christophe Mazaud at the Cave d'Irouleguy

Irouleguy, an exceptional terroir

In the heart of the Basque lands and the province of Basse Navarre, in the shadow of the Pyrenees, the picturesque vineyard of Iroulèguy is one of the smallest vineyards in France (and Europe!) And the only one in the French Basque Country . Its secular vines, planted in terraces extend over 240 ha and are spread over 15 municipalities: Anhaux, Aincille, Ascarat, Bidarray , Bussunarits-Sarrasquette, Bustince-Iriberry, Irouléguy, Ispoure, Jaxu, Lasse, Lecumberry, Ossès , Saint- Etienne de Baigorry , Saint Jean le Vieux, and Saint Martin d'Arrossa . Of this area, 150 ha of crops are intended exclusively for the cooperative cellar. In a setting of unspoiled nature, perched between 200 and 400 meters above sea level with an average drop of 60%, the plots of vines are subject to the dual influence of the Pyrenees and the Atlantic . The hilly terrain protects the vines from severe winter cold and gales, promotes spring warming and guarantees sunshine all year round . When I ask Christophe, the director of the Cellar, about the specific character of Irouleguy wine, his answer is unequivocal: "The unique aspect of our terroir? The mountain landscapes, the know-how, the team spirit of the winegrowers, the Basque culture and the strong territorial identity that the wine generously restores ” .

Irouleguy grapes

Grape Irouleguy Irouleguy


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The Cave Coopérative d'Irouleguy, generations of passionate winegrowers

La Cave Coopérative d'Irouleguy was created in 1952 under the leadership of nine winegrowers from the Basque Country and two entrepreneurs Pierre Minjonnet and Alexandre Bergouignan who decided to join forces. Rich in a know-how that is passed on from generation to generation, they regret that the work of the vine is not valued at its fair value and that the quality of the wine is not optimized on this land dedicated to traditional mixed farming. They then brought together a team of wine growers (numbering 39 today!) To create the cooperative cellar and work together to rebuild a vineyard partially destroyed by phylloxera. A new dynamic is taking hold, driven by significant investments but above all by the passion and willingness of winegrowers to work as a team, upscale and produce a wine of excellence in terms of taste quality. At the origin of the powerful and generous wines characteristic of the Irouléguy appellation that I am about to discover, the vineyard is made up of half a dozen grape varieties, some of which are endemic to the South-West: for the red, Tannat , Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu for the white.


Irouleguy wine

Irouleguy Irouleguy

Grape Cave Irouleguy

The grapes arrive at the cellar after the harvest

In 1970, momentum was definitely given by the recognition of Irouléguy wines in AOC. In the 1980s, a new generation of wine growers took up the torch and boosted this activity: through wine, they wanted to express their identity, to reflect this unique place where the vines, the grape variety, the soil, the climate and their sensitivity grow. With the inclusion of 6 new municipalities in 1995, the cultivation area is extended and constitutes the current contours of the AOC appellation area. Today, more than 50% of the winegrowers in the Irouleguy cellar are under 40 and have graduated from an oenology school! La Cave sells 650,000 bottles annually, a small quantity that guarantees exclusivity and environmentally friendly cultivation. A great adventure for these wines of character which are very successful and are regularly rewarded in the biggest competitions!


Irouleguy wines

Cave Irouleguy

Irouleguy wines


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A fun, captivating and engaged visit

The cooperative cellar is getting a makeover in 2018, offering a whole new experience to 45,000 annual visitors: renewal of the cellar, modernization of winemaking equipment, renovation and new design of the public reception and tasting area. La Cave d'Irouleguy now offers an integrated tour of the store in order to understand all the stages of wine production. Immersive videos , solicitation of the sense of smell , discovery of the vat room and a cellar ... From the work of the vine to the unique harvest which takes place over 15 days between early and mid-October, from vinification to bottling, Irouleguy wine will no longer hold any secrets for you. The tasting area is uncluttered, well-lit, spacious and conducive to discussion with the sommelier who makes you savor his range of red, white and rosé wines. All the senses are awakened!

The Cellar's commitment to sustainable development is strongly affirmed by the desire to switch to a current volume of 20% organic wines to 40% by the end of the year. Reasoned agriculture is at the center of the concerns of the cooperative's winegrowers, whose organic conversion is indeed underway!

Irouleguy

Irouleguy

Irouleguy tasting

Tasting to the delight of the taste buds!


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Authentic wine tastings

Between us ... nothing like soaking up the local heritage and this ancestral know-how by discovering the flavors of Irouleguy wines with a tasting. A pedagogue and sensitive to each individual's experience, the cellar's sommelier offers each visitor a real sensory journey , at his own pace, with his own skills and his own palate.It is particularly fascinating to discuss and describe the best taste subtleties, notes and combinations of flavors, but above all what one feels when tasting the wines, whether one is a novice or a connoisseur. Children can also enjoy a drawing corner and a tour adapted to their size. In addition, the cellar offers workshops "Vigneron d'un jour", "Assemblage" and "Buissonnière walk in the vines" to further discover the Basque vineyard and the wine of Irouleguy.

Irouleguy

Cave Irouleguy

At the end of the visit, it's hard to resist buying a few bottles that go wonderfully with picnics, aperitifs and meals!


Irouléguy cuvées range between 13 and 15% alcohol. Alcohol abuse is dangerous for health. To consume with moderation.

Did you like this report? Find more in our BLOG. Find out more by subscribing to the Basque Country Guide Facebook page. We also have an Instagram page @guidedupaysbasque


Photos and Article prepared by Lesley Williamson for the Guide du Pays Basque


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