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Irouléguy Wine

Irouléguy Wine

One might think the new-found popularity for traversing the medieval pathways of the Camino de Santiago would see an upsurge in demand for the local wine as thirsty travellers pile through Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port en route to divine absolution.

Apparently, this isn't the case as 21st Century pilgrims aren't as hedonistic as they were in Chaucer's day. Their chief concerns today are finding sockets to charge mobile devices and stealing a march on the competition in order to secure the following evening's accommodation.

That is their loss as the local Irouléguy wines are some of the most characterful and distinctive in France and merit contemplative appreciation. Peio Espil is one of a handful of independent winemakers in the vicinity producing finely-crafted organic wines at his Domaine Ilarria in the foothills of the Pyrenees. His Irouléguy blanc is made from a blend of Petit Corbu and Petit Manseng and has wild flower and herb aromas, a savoury palate of dried apple and cobnuts underscored by mineral streaks. A sibling red 'Cuvée Ilaria' is blended from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat and brings a bouquet of dark cherries and myrtle backed up by a briary palate of dark forest fruit and rugged tannins that will be tamed if you can bear to further mature it in bottle over the coming decade or so.

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  1. Irouléguy: Domaine Ilarria ‘Sans Soufre Ajouté’ Rouge 2017
    Bottle
    £29.75
    Bottle (Case)
    £357.00
  2. Irouléguy: Domaine Ilarria 'Cuvée Bixintxo' Rouge 2019
    Bottle
    £29.75
    Bottle (Case)
    £357.00
  3. Irouléguy: Domaine Ilarria Blanc 2018
    Bottle
    £24.25
    Bottle (Case)
    £291.00
  4. Vin de France: Domaine Ilarria Rosé 2020
    Bottle
    £17.95
    Bottle (Case)
    £215.40
    Half Bottle
    £9.95
    Half Bottle (Case)
    £238.80
  5. Irouléguy: Domaine Ilarria Rouge 2018
    Bottle
    £21.00
    Bottle (Case)
    £252.00
  6. Irouléguy: Domaine Ilarria Rouge 2017
    Half Bottle
    £12.50
    Half Bottle (Case)
    £300.00
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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.