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Xuri, La Cave d’Irouléguy, Irouléguy, 2010
Xuri (pronounced ‘Shuri’) is one of the more exotically named whites in our competition, and it gives us all the chance to learn at least one word in Basque. It means, well, ‘white’.
According to Xavier Pierre, the director of the Cave d’Irouléguy, there is something genuinely unique about this wine, though. “It’s a blend of 70 per cent Gros Manseng with 10 per cent Petit Courbu and 20 per cent Petit Manseng. Outside Irouléguy, you’ll only find those varieties in Jurançon and Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh – and the Petit Manseng is always used in those other locations to make sweet wine. Ours is the only truly dry Petit Manseng you can buy.”
Its Petit Manseng component gives this wine its remarkable backbone and structure, as well as reinforcing its singular aromatic power.
Irouléguy itself is French wine’s final southwestern frontier, a mountainous zone of red sandstone and limestone soils where heather grows around the vineyards and where, despite the low latitudes, the landscape stays a deep Irish green all year.
The white varieties prefer the limestone soils, which are in general a little lower and flatter than the sandstones.
Twenty years ago, according to Xavier Pierre, there was almost no white produced here. The quality of the whites has not gone unnoticed by local consumers, though, and every years plantings expand a little: they now exceed 10 per cent of the tiny 230-ha total in Irouléguy.
This excellent co-operative dominates its appellation (it takes fruit from 130 ha) and is one of the few in France to sell out every year, mostly “in front of the door”, according to M.Pierre. There is, though, just a little left over for export …
Written by Gerard Basset MW