Domaine Ilarria (Peio Espil)
The tiny appellation of Irouléguy centres on the village of the same name in the Basque country near the Spanish border. The Espil family has owned Domaine Ilarria for centuries and the Basque language is still spoken in the family home. One of only 7 independent winemakers here (and the longest-serving), Peio presides over 30 hectares that are farmed organically following natural principles espoused by Japanese microbiologist Masonobu Fukuaka. Only 10 hectares are under vine and farmed organically with 3ha planted with white varieties Petit Manseng and Petit Corbu. The remaining 7ha consists principally of Tannat which yields tannic and long-lived wines so Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc are deployed to soften its harder edges for red and rosé.
His characterful Irouléguy blanc is made from a blend of Petit Corbu and Petit Manseng that are left on their fine lees over winter prior to a spring bottling. The finished wine has appealing herb and wildflower scents and a ripe orchard fruit palate with a persistent dry finish. It makes a fine foil for the local cuisine that is rich in olive oil, garlic and spicy piment peppers. Peio's Irouléguy rouge is usually blended from around Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat in descending proportions. With a bouquet of dark cherries and bay plus a palate of forest fruit supported by earthy tannins, it comes into its own with 2 to 3 years bottle age and will cellar well for a decade. He also makes a similar red with no added sulphur and his 'Cuvée Bixinto' only in the best vintages. The latter is a true 'vin de garde' that will cellar for 20 years and hits its stride after around a decade in bottle. His Domaine rosé has a similar cépage to the reds and is designed particularly to drink with food, especially charcuterie, fish and poultry.