Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Irouléguy, unique and isolated French wine appellation in basque country in the extreme south west of the country fuelled almost entirely by national pride. The language and lettering used on labels here are distinctively Basque, with a heavy sprinkling of Xs. These vineyards of lower navarra and the Spanish txakoli are the last officially recognized vestiges of what was once a thriving wine industry (which can now be traced as far as uruguay). Although there were 470 ha/1,160 acres of vines in 1906, vines were almost abandoned until the late 20th century. An appellation contrôlée was granted in 1970, and by the early 1990s, the vineyard area was once again expanding. About 232 ha of scattered vineyards on soils including limestone, schist, red clay, and gravel were cultivated by 2012 by about 60 vignerons (one of them the ex-winemaker at petrus, no less) in rolling pastoral countryside in the far western Pyrenees, up to more than 400 m/1,300 ft above sea level, under heavy Atlantic climatic influence in the west. The vines are protected from north winds and enjoy more sunshine than most French wine regions. The local Tannat grape and/or Cabernet Franc must constitute between 50 and 90% of the light, crisp reds with the rest made up of Cabernet Sauvignon. A little distinctively fragrant white wine is also made from the indigenous varieties courbu, petit courbu, gros manseng, and petit manseng. The fragrant, relatively substantial rosé is mostly Tannat with the two Cabernets but up to 10% of the white grapes may also be included.