The view is fascinating. Long green ribbons sketch out a one-of-a-kind backdrop on the mountain sides. That of a mountain vineyard, the smallest in France, where grapes flourish between an average 200 and 400 metres altitude. Here, vines are all about passion and commitment.
And, that’s what it takes to lay out these plots of land in terraces, the only way to tame the landform. And, that’s also what it takes to work the acres, by hand, from pruning to harvesting, in a geographical realm which limits the use of everything mechanical.
There are around sixty winemakers, eleven independent and the others united together in the Irouléguy Cooperative Winery, bottling the expression of the varieties which honour the appellation: Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Petit Courbu for the whites, Tannat, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon for the reds.
Unique wines, on the palate they are as rich as the diversity of the vineyard’s micro-climates and soils (schist, red sandstone, ophite from the Keuper strata (Triassic), limestone, etc.).
Discoveries and tastings
Even though they are busy over the summer ensuring the growth of their vines and preparing the harvests, Irouléguy winegrowers also take the time to welcome visitors, for a tasting session, a direct sale and even a tour. This is, for example, what the Domaine Gutizia, created in 2011 by Sébastien Clauzel and his companion Cécile Saba, proposes.
The couple organizes a participative visit for adults and children twice a week. To unlock Irouléguy’s secrets, also head over to the Cooperative Winery in Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry which, since last summer, has been proposing a new space mixing scenography, fun-filled workshops, tasting sessions and sales.
And, while you’re here, why not enjoy a trip to the local producers and artisans’ markets which take place every Thursday in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a wonderful opportunity to delight in these wines with one-of-a-kind personalities.
Guided tours on Tuesdays and Fridays at 5pm. Leisparz district, in Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry
+33 (0)5 59 37 52 84
www.gutizia.fr/en (External link)
La Cave d'Irouleguy.
Route Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in Saint-Étienne-de-Baïgorry
+33 (0)5 59 37 41 33
www.cave-irouleguy.com/en/ (External link)
What to do around the area?
Stroll through the streets of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
A major stopping place on the Santiago de Compostela route, this fortified medieval town unveils its exceptional architectural heritage as you wander around, starting from the Porte Saint-Jacques, a Unesco-listed site. You then step into a world of narrow streets lined with stately dwellings before heading to the top of the citadel which offers a magnificent view over Irouléguy vineyards and the surrounding mountains.
Have a go at trail running and trekking in Baïgorry
In recent years, Baïgorry Valley has established itself as the Basque Country’s trail running capital. And, in 2016, it set up a trail station. The facilities include a reception centre, a stadium for training and loops which weave their way around the whole valley. These waymarked tracks, colour-coded by level, may also be used for trekking. A smartphone app enables you to geolocate yourself and to know how much of the trail you’ve covered.
Indulge in Aldudes Valley
Around the villages of Banca, Aldudes and Urepel, ewes and Piebald Basque pigs reign supreme. The valley is famous for its farmhouse cheeses as well as its Kintoa pork, acknowledged with an AOC since 2016. A breeding discovery trail to find out more about this local race is accessible from the Pierre Oteiza boutique. Count an hour’s walk in the mountains.