Saturday, August 22, 2015

Basque Wines and a Game - hosted by Ms. Deb and Mr. Jaffet at Le Caveau on August 22nd 2015

Basque Wines and a Game - hosted by Ms. Deb and Mr. Jaffet at Le Caveau on Saturday August 22nd, 2015 3p-5p ET.
Special thank you to Ms. Valerie our guest blogger for this post.  Thank you!!!

Notes from Ms Deb:  "Basque wine tasting included Bonito del Norte - tuna in olive oil, Piquillo peppers stuffed with Bonito tuna, Ventresca Tuna - Belly fillets in olive oil, Idiazabal Sheeps Cheese and Roncal from Pyrenees and from nearby regions, Navarre Crunchy sweet white garlic, Sweet white garlic with olives, peppers and capers, Thick white asparagus spears, Guindilla peppers, Rosquillas - ring shaped Picos Breadsticks, Manchego cheese sampler -including a baby manchego (everyone’s favorite), Gordal olives stuffed with Seville orange and some stuffed with peppers. and here are the wines:  

2013 Ameztoi ‘Hijo de Rubentis’ Methode Champenoise Rosé , 

2014 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina, 

2013 Doniene Bizkaiko Txakolina, 

2012 Gorrondona Tinto Bizkaiko Txakolina, 

2010 Ameztia ‘Cuvée Pantxo’ Irouléguy"    
(wines lined up in reverse order from Right to Left)
Tasting Notes:
This August TWITs meet up was a truly fabulous event held at Le Caveau Fine Wines and hosted by Mrs. Debbie and Jaffet.  The 5 gorgeous wines we tasted were crafted in the Basque region of Spain, and featured some grape varietals I had never heard of, which are unique to the region.  All the wines were hand-selected by the ever-exceptional Eric, and all cost under $30.

Mrs. Debbie planned a superb & educational event for us.  Debbie specializes in game-basedlearning techniques, and also has a keen interest in the Basque country (Jaffet’s ancestry partially originated there).  After feasting on a spread of authentic Basque hors d’oeuvres, cheeses, and Mediterranean lamb, we were treated to an educational power point about Basque wines.  Then we kicked off our wine tasting with a fun and creative game that helped us remember a lot of the fun facts we heard in her presentation.

So here are some of those fun facts…

First, what we refer to as Basque country is not actually country in its own right, but rather a region of
Northern Spain which occupies approximately 8000 square miles.  Nestled between the borders of Spain and France in the Western Pyrenees, this area is comprised of 2 regions: the Basque Autonomous Community and the Chartered Community of Navarre

Side Note: One thing I learned about Basque names is, they’re pretty confusing.  They all have at least 3 weird and disparate spellings, with different pronunciations.   As you will see below.

3 Ancient Provinces of Basque Autonomous Community:
1.       Álava (Basque = Araba),
2.       Biscay (Spanish = Vizcaya, Basque = Bizkaia)
3.       Gipuzkoa (Spanish = Guipúzcoa)

Other Fun Facts about Basque country & it’s wines:
·         The origin of the Basque language is unclear, and is one of the few surviving languages in Europe that pre-dates the Indo-European languages.
·         The wine predominantly associated with traditional Basque culture is Txakolina.  It’s a light, refereshing, high acid white wine which often has a soft natural fizz (I’ll explain why later), and pairs perfectly with the simple, seafood-centric and tapas cuisine of the region. Most Txakolina is white, but a few producers are experimenting with reds and rosés.
·         The grape varietals used in Txakolina are highly dominant Hondarrabi Zuri (white) and Hondarribi Beltza (red).
·         Txakolina may also be called Txakoli or even Chacolí.  The latter may be spelled Txacoli or Chakoli.  The Basque like to keep it straightforward.
·         There are 3 Txakoli DOs - Getaria Txakoli, Bizkaia (Vizcaya) Txakoli and Alava Txakoli.  We got to taste the first 2.
·         The vast majority of Txakolina is consumed in Basque country, in the summertime.  The 1 exception is the United States, the only other country which consumes any appreciable quantity of Txakolina.
·         In addition to Txakolina, Basque country also produces Rioja Alavesa, which is mostly Tempranillo with some Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano.
·         Txakolina is usually fermented with the native yeasts in tightly sealed steel tanks.  This captures carbon dioxide, which imparts the natural effervescence I mentioned earlier.

Our Basque tapas menu included Ms Debbie’s delectable selections of:
Bonito del Norte (tuna in olive oil)
Piquillo peppers stuffed with Bonito tuna
Ventresca Tuna – (Belly fillets in olive oil)
Lamb sliders from Café Sababa

Crunchy sweet white garlic
Sweet white garlic with olives, peppers and capers
Gordal olives stuffed with Seville orange
Goral Olives stuffed with jalapenos
Thick white asparagus spears
Guindilla peppers
Greek salad
Rosquillas (ring shaped Picos Breadsticks)

Manchebo cheese sampler -including a baby manchego (everyone’s favorite)
Idiazabal Sheep’s Cheese 
Ronal (made in the Pyrenees)

Many of these delights can be ordered through La Tienda (

Reception Wine              
Name: 2013 Ameztoi ‘Hijo de Rubentis’ Methode Champenoise Rosé
Blend:   90% Hondarribi Beltza (red grape) and 10% Hondarribi Zuri (white grape)
Eric’s Tasting Notes:
Bright, salmon-pink with a strong mousse. Deep nose of blood orange, toasty dark berry and sea air. On the palate the flavors slowly build to fresh, riper fruit with bright acidity and spice notes. The flavors slowly evolve into a long dry finish. This more resembles a Grower Champagne than the regular Rubentis Txakolina bottling.
Eric is a riot…  Salmon-pink with a strong mousse
Our Impressions:
Everyone really liked this one.  Dry, balanced acidity.  Probably the tiniest and most delicate bubbles I’ve ever seen in a Methode Champenoise.  What’s not to like?

Wine #2
Name:  2014 Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina
Blend:   90% Hondarribi Zuri and 10% Hondarribi Beltza
Eric’s Tasting Notes
Bright briny sea salt combined with limey fruits. Fresh and eminently quaffable. In the traditional style of Getaria, this light and crisp wine is bottled with a little bit of residual CO2 to give it its signature natural spritz.
Our Impressions:
Star fruit, freesia, citrus pith.  Bracing, refreshing acidity.

Wine #3
Name:  2013 Doniene Bizkaiko Txakolina
Blend:   100% Hondarribi Zuri
Fresh aromatics reminiscent of fennel and citrus tones on the nose, the palate is texturally pleasing with a faint, bitter note on the finish that is typical of Hondarribi Zuri. Made from 100% free-run Hondarribi Zuri, aged on the lees for 3 months before bottling.
Our Impressions:
Voluptuous & full bodied with savory cheese notes.  A honey-like sweetness and hints of melon and citrus.  Drinks like a Chenin Blanc.  Paired well with the Basque pickled items.

Wine #4
Name:  2013 Gorrondona Tinto Bizkaiko Txakolina
Blend:   100% Hondarribi Zuri
Eric’s Tasting Notes
Aromas of green peppers and spices are followed by red fruit. On the palate the wine exerts flavors of crushed minerals. Medium tannins yield a light and refreshing finish. This red txakolina is a distinctive wine made from Hondarribi Beltza sourced from a 2 hectare plot of 150 year old, pre-phylloxera vines
Our Impressions:
Nose: scallions, oak, green pepper, brambleberry, strawberry jam, and creamy notes.   Palate: fruit forward, dark berries, herbaceous & woody.

Wine #5
Name:  2010 Ameztia ‘Cuvée Pantxo’ Irouléguy
Blend:   60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Tannat
Eric’s Tasting Notes
This wine is very aromatic, with dark, dry blackberry fruit, lavender, poblano pepper and exotic spices on the nose. Incredible balance on the palate, solid mid-palate for longevity with the perfect amount of ripeness and acidity keeping it all fresh. Precise with a long finish. The Cuvée Pantxo is named for close family-friend and vineyard manager Pantxo Indart. The grapes are sourced from his family’s vineyards and vinified by Ameztia. The grapes are 100% de-stemmed and crushed in a vertical press and fermented for 15-25 days with native yeast.  This is aged for 15 months in one third French oak with the rest in stainless steel tank.
Our Impressions:

Nose: mushrooms, funk, barnyard.  Like changing the oil in your car.  I got some sulfur gas, but no one else did (maybe because I got the first pour?).  We also got chocolate cocoa powder and some resinous notes, “like a Buddhist retreat” (i.e. incense). “It’s complicated” – in a good way.  Palate: similar to a Plan de Dieu.

Debbie’s Wine Game
This was played in a similar manner to Who Am I, but here, each person got a card attached to their glass (which they weren’t allowed to look at), and tried to guess what was on it by asking 3 yes or no questions to someone else in the room.  All of the cards had bits of information from Debbie’s presentation.  

Connie won the game and was rewarded with a lovely bottle of wine!