Quick and Easy Guide to Irouléguy wine
The specialist Basque appellation of Irouléguy, above the pilgrim pit-stop of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in the Pyrenees, is home to a single cave co-opérative and a handful of independent wine-makers including Peio Espil from whom we have been shipping since 1997.
Wine has been produced in this languid agricultural landscape in the western Pyrenees since the Abbey of Roncevaux planted vineyards in the Middle Ages. A trio of mildew-plagued vintages in 1907-1909, followed by phylloxera arriving in 1912 almost put paid to viticulture in the vicinity altogether. Happily, a few dogged vignerons kept the faith and in 1952 the VDQS classification was awarded, followed, finally, by full Appellation Contrôlée status in 1970.
The appellation now runs to some 1,000 hectares encompassing a huge range of soil types, aspects and at altitudes up to some 400m. Its climate is heavily influenced by the Atlantic yet has enjoys "...more sunshine than most French wine regions", according to Jancis Robinson OBE, MW.
Appellation rules insist that reds must be composed of at least half Tannat and/or Cabernet Franc with the balance from Cabernet Sauvignon. Local varieties Courbu, Petit Courbu, plus Gros- and Petit Manseng and are used for crisp, aromatic white blends, although a little joins the red varieties in rosé wine production.