I went to the Basque Country a few years ago, and a very fine time I had too. It was a land rich in hospitality and fine, cheap food, overflowing with spare X’s and Z’s, blessed with excellent beaches and surfing and scenery and fiercely proud of their local alcoholic beverage. And that beverage, with absolutely no doubt, was cider. Very fine, dry cider. Cider that barmen would insist on pouring into and around your glass from a comical height in a primitive form of amateur carbonation.
Turns out they make wine, very good wine. Obviously, Basques being Basques, they have to decorate the label with unusual consonants. For a start, they named their winegrowing area Getariako Txakolina – it sits in the foothills of a mountain called Eztenagako Txorrua. The vast majority of its output, including this bottle, is white wine made from the Hondarribi zuri grape. Nothing on this wine’s label is familiar to me.
But I’d be very happy for what’s inside it to become more familiar. This is decent stuff, and it’ll get better. It’s very taut at present, all acid and apple and elder. The label – the bit on the back that’s in English – suggests that “due to our careful winemaking methods and extended lees ageing, our wine will gain much complexity with time in bottle”, and I’m very tempted to believe them. It’s similar, in character if not taste, to a very young Clare Valley riesling, a wine very acidic in its youth that at its best develops great complexity with several years spent laying about in a bottle. For now it’s impressive but immature, good with the right kind of food but not something to relax with on the sofa. Give it five years, though, and it should be significantly more cuddlesome. It cost me £15.50 from one of my two local purveyors of excellent vinous obscurity, Theatre of Wine, but would have cost me £18 at the other, Bottle Apostle. You may well point out that that without even looking for a bargain kind I could get one of those very good Clare Valley rieslings instead for that kind of price. Perhaps it could be a little cheaper, then, but forgivably so – someone’s got to pay for all those X’s and Z’s, after all, and they don’t print themselves.
Incidentally, it’s worth popping over to the producer’s website, just to check out the view those vines enjoy. Not. Ruddy. Bad.
Other interesting wine of the week
Also this week I pottered over to the Greenhouse in London’s Mayfair for lunch with Madame Duval-Leroy of Champagne Duval-Leroy fame, her winemaker, one of her sons and a couple of other Duval-Leroy people. Though they produce between four and five million bottles a year, it’s not an enormously well-known Champagne house, but I was impressed with the handful of wines I tried, all of them made in a fresh style but without any aggression. Worth immediate recommendation is the Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru, which is available at Waitrose until 6 November for £19.99, a £10 saving. With Christmas on its way there’s going to be no shortage of cut-price fizz, but I think £20 is very good value for an excellent aperitif Champagne, and it’s certain to improve further if you can hide it somewhere for a year or two. There’ll be a lot of sub-£20 champers flooding the supermarkets in the next couple of months, but I doubt that much of it will beat this on quality.