Time may have softened the tannins of Domaine Brana’s 1999 Irouléguy but it’s done little else to calm the wine’s inherently sauvage nature. Initial aromas of dry-aged meat, dried herbs and stewed green peppers meet the nose, followed on the palate by slightly angular wood tannins and firm, somewhat narrow texture. As the wine opens in the glass, herbaceous aromas give way to wild plums and sour cherries. The dry woodiness also blows off, letting the ferrous quality and wild fruit of this typically Basque wine show through. Finally, again with air time, riper, rounder grape tannins take over from the subsiding wood tannins, giving the wine richness in the mouth that belies its medium-bodied scale and old-school alcohol level.
This is arguably the most typical of Domaine Brana’s reds – more solid, fine and age worthy than the rustic Ohitza and less rich and modern than Axeria. All three are blends dominated by Cabernet Franc, supported by Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat. There’s structure here to allow further cellaring but I’m not convinced that patience will reap further rewards as this seems to be riding its plateau now, retaining solid fruit yet showing the tertiary aromas of bottle development.
Approximately $25 on release. 12.5% alcohol. Natural cork closure. Importer: Wine Traditions, Falls Church, VA.
Opening this bottle was unplanned. It just seemed to call to me when I opened the cellar door in search of something to pair with Christmas dinner. Though I was hardly preparing a traditional Basque meal, the Irouléguy nonetheless seemed an appropriate match to roast duck magret served with a woodsy Portobello mushroom risotto and, just to get some green on the plate, steamed broccoli. The risotto was a fine match but it was really the duck that made the wine sing.
I like to keep a couple of D’Artagnan's duck breasts on hand at all times. They hold up extremely well in the freezer. Once thawed, they require nothing other than a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper followed by a good pan sear over medium heat to render and crisp the fat layer, followed by roasting in the oven, fat side up. Pouring off and saving the rendered fat is just an added bonus, one that will add a wonderful depth of flavor to eggs, beans or potatoes at a future meal.