Southwest / Irouléguy-Domaine Ilarria
|Charles Neal Selections||
Charles Neal Selections © 2018
|Charles Neal Selections||
Domaine Ilarria Irouléguy
One of the appellation’s long standing producers is Peio Espil at Domaine Ilarria. In fact, until 1990, he was one of the two independent producers in the appellation. Peio grew up in the region, a descendent of multiple generations that also inhabited the white stone house where he currently lives and works with his wife Lucie and two growing boys. In this part of the Pyrénées, where the mountains begin to lose altitude as they weave their way toward the north of Spain, large domes of green grass cover the mounds more so than snow that covers the granite peaks seen further east. It is a bucolic environment, with hundreds of sheep graze the hills and where elongated white houses with red tile roofs dot the countryside.
While in the same department as Jurançon and Béarn (Pyrenées-Atlantique), is firmly part of the Pays Basque or Basque country, an area that extends up the Atlantic coast and into Spain (about 15% of the Basque territory is in France). Peio and his family, as well as neighbors in the small town of just over 300 inhabitants, communicate primarily through this ancient language. Of course everyone also speaks French, but Basque is the language that rolls off their tongues first.
Irouléguy winemaker Peio Espil
Instead of doing military service, Peio spent two years in Africa working for the peace corps. When he returned to France, he studied winemaking at La Tour Blanche in Sauternes and later worked at Domaine Cauhapé in Jurançon. He returned to the family domaine in 1988 where continued working alongside his father.
Peio now farms 7 hectares of vines (just over 17 acres), located along the steep hillsides a couple of kilometers from his house. He began eliminating the use of weed killers and synthetic chemical sprays in 2005 and is certified organic through Ecocert. Since working organically, he feels he obtains a stonger, natural yeast formation within his vineyards. While many producers in the region have carved out terrasses along the hillsides, Peio prefers to plant top to bottom, feeling it creates less erosion. In addition, while many of the vineyards of Irouléguy are planted on iron-rich, red soils, most of Peio’s plantings are gray limestone, which gives a particular mineral lift to the domaine’s wines.
70% Tannat, 30% Cabernet Franc which goes through malolactic fermentation in tank).
Tasting notes: This rosé, like that of Tavel, will stand up to rich foods, particularly grilled meats and charcuterie. This is an Eric Asimov favorite, having been featured in his New York Times article about this spectacular Basque region tucked within the foothills of the Pyrenees.
55% Tannat, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc, aged for 20 months sur lie in both tank and barrel:
Bixintxo (pronounced Be-chean-tcho, that is St. Vincent, in Basque). Only made in the best years. Older vintages were made with pure Tannat, but more recent vintages have seen a blend of the various grapes. 40% Tannat, 38% Cabernet Franc, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, vinified in tank and aged 20 months in barrel:
Tasting notes: This rustic wine deserves the finest in rustic cuisine; stews, leg of lamb on the grill and pork sausages with peppers are three dishes that immediately come to mind.
40% Petit Manseng, 60% Petit Courbu, with malolactic fermentation and aging in both tank and barrel.