Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Irouléguy, Domaine Brana 1999

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.

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Relevant goodies:


Joe said...

Hi David. You probably know I love those wines from SW France, but I have never had an Irouléguy - a similar note could probably be written for an old Madiran! The only Irouléguy avail locally is the Domaine Ilarria 2004. Have you ever tasted this domaine? I think I would probably have gone to Burgundy to pair with the duck - I am set in my ways...

David McDuff said...

Hey Joe,
I haven't had the opportunity to taste anything from Domaine Ilarria. Regrettably, it's rare to find any Irouléguy, white or red, in the Philly area. Though I don't disagree with your thought as to the Madiran comparison, I do typically find Madiran to be a bit blacker of fruit and less herbaceous and spicy than Irouléguy.

One of the things I enjoy so much about duck, aside from its flavor of course, is its flexibility on the table. When prepared as I described in the post, I find it can be a good pair with Burgundy, Bordeaux or SW reds. But when long roasted and served with a sweet glaze (e.g. Peking Duck), I love it with Riesling.

Joe said...

I've never had an Irouléguy so I can't comment on the difference in terroir, but my Madiran experiments seem to show a wide diversity of styles. I would definitely put Brumont's wines in the less herbaceous and blacker of fruit, but even there he has some diversity (i.e. Argile Rouge vs. the Bouscasse or Montus bottlings). That Peking duck / Riesling sounds like an excellent combo.

David McDuff said...

I'll readily and frustratingly admit that the availability of SW French wines in the Philly area is next to nil, making it hard to find much breadth in AOCs such as Madiran, Irouléguy, etc. I'll be making a concerted effort in '08 to broaden my shopping circles accordingly.

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