Located in northern Spain, the Basque Country spans a rich, diverse growing region from the western Pyrenees on the French border to the Atlantic coast. Its wealth of natural resources has earned the “Euskadi” global recognition and a well-earned reputation for culinary tradition and innovation.

Famous for their rich gastronomic tradition, their world class chefs and their fierce sense of identity, The Basque Country is now including wines to its list of achievements.  At the 2012 Basque Country Food and Wine Exhibition in San Sebastián, importers from over 60 different countries met to explore and discover fine wines like the Rioja Alavesa wines from the southern part of the Basque Country.

With a production of close to 40 million liters of wine, the red Tempranillo grape is the main variety of the Rioja Alavesa.  Here are three lively wines, two under $15, that are distributed in the USA

AGNVS Crianza Red 2007 Rioja Alavesa ($14). 95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano from over 50 years old vines. This medium bodied wine was aged for 12 months in French and Russian oak and aged in bottle for 12 months. Deep garnet color with violet hues with an intense nose of red berries and balsamic it is lively in the mouth, with fresh acidity, yet silky, well-balanced and  food friendly, particularly with charcuterie, red meat and game

Viñedos y Bodegas de la Marquesa – Valserrano Crianza Red 2009 Rioja Alavesa ($14).. 90% Tempranillo / 10% Mazuelo.  Viñedos y Bodegas de la Marquesa – Valserrano is an ancient and family run winery founded in 1880 and located in Villabuena de Alava, Rioja Alavesa. Approximately 900,000 lbs of grapes are grown each year on the family’s 165 acres of at least 25 year-old  vineyards in Villabuena, from the sunny lower slopes of the Cantabrian Mountain Range  to the banks of the River Ebro to the south-southwest. Aged for 18 months in American- and French-oak casks this full-bodied red is layered with black cherry and red berry notes, aromas of ripe plums, fresh figs, hazelnuts and hints of green tea and strawberry. Fresh and fruity on the palate, it has well integrated tannins and lively acidity and lingers in a long and aromatic finish. 

Finca Monteviejo 2007 Rioja Alavesa  ($42) 95% Tempranillo / 5% Graciano and Garnacha.  Aged for 18 months in new French oak, this full-bodied, black-cherry colored wine with shades of blue was bottled in January 2010.  An intense nose of dried fruits, hay, berries and cherry liqueur precedes complex aromas of blackcurrant liqueur, coconut and chocolate with herbs and spices undertones. Strong tannins are tempered by a good acidity and hints of minerality, toffee, dried fruit and a long, lingering aftertaste.

The Basque region is also renowned for their Idiazabal cheese Denomination of Origin, after the name of a small town at the foothills of Aralar Mountain.  The area is renowned for its pastoral tradition that dates back over four thousand years.  Idiazabal cheese is made from unprocessed milk from the Laxta goat breed, cured for a minimum of two months, then smoked or left natural. The round discs are slightly spicy in flavor with an intensely nutty aroma which pairs beautifully with all the above wines.

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