Ilarria Irouleguy: Wild Card Win, Half-Bottle Value

Posted by CrushWine

Wild Child of Southwest France
2006 Ilarria Irouleguy Half-Bottles
Beyond Bordeaux: The Perfect Price, the Perfect Format
to Try Something New!

Despite their miniature price tag and format, these are quite impressive half-bottles. They're from unique extremes way down in the corner of France's wild Southwest, and they're some of the country's most fascinating wines, combining the heartiness of the Southwest with mountain vigor.

With this offer we go beyond Bordeaux: Irouleguy is likely one of the wildest, most obscure corners of French wine.

Today we feature half-bottles of 2006 Ilarria Irouleguy Rouge at $8.25 a bottle. Three-packs bring them down to $7.43 each - or just over $22 total.

For those of you wondering, "What's Irouleguy? Who's Ilarria?" Or, "Where's the Burgundy?"... let us explain.

We've been big fans of Ilarria for sometime. Irouleguy is an appellation in the heart of France's Basque country. Picture lush green hills with grazing sheep (Ossau-Iraty, Abbaye de Belloc and other delicious sheep's milk cheeses are made here). Spain is just six miles away.

Most of the vineyards are on steep, often terraced hills where the incline can reach 60%. The soils are very complex with sand, clay and volcanic elements, plus small sections of limestone. All are stained red by the soil's high iron content.

What results from these unique extremes are some of the most fascinating wines, combining southwestern heartiness with mountain vigor. These are singular wines of nervy acidity, robust body and tannin, dark fruits, peppery spice and an elemental minerality.

What makes Ilarria's Irouleguy stand out is the incredible purity that it manages to deliver. There's plenty of Irouleguy's ruggedness, but there's also a very pleasing textural element here - even a quality that's almost silken in nature. The volume of dark complexity doesn't hit you like a freight train. Instead, the way that the smoke, saline mineral, forest floor and spice notes intermingle with the layered dark fruits is surprisingly understated. The wine finishes detailed, pure and with plenty of energy.

At about $8, this is the perfect format, the perfect price, to try something new.

The cépage here is a blend of the notoriously tannic Tannat grape along with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. These are intense wines, no doubt, and Irouleguy Rouge fairly requires a bit of age and the right food.  

The vintage on offer today is 2006, so it's already got a good start on the age thing. Plus, here's where half-bottles come in handy: They age faster due to the wine being exposed to more oxygen.

The format is also handy because it offers you the opportunity to pair the wine with a particular dish and drink something a bit lighter as an aperitif or with your first course. Today's 2006 Ilarria Irouleguy Rouge is ideal with cassoulet, duck confit and heartier fare in general. As summer wanes, this would make a great partner to grilled hanger steak with peppers and sundry vegetables. 

Ilarria is a small domaine of only six hectares. The owner, Peio Espil, returned to his family's domaine in 1988 after working at Château La Tour Blanche in Sauternes and Domaine Cauhape in nearby Jurançon. He's a major advocate of organic viticulture - in part because he believes that it encourages a greater diversity of yeasts, which both add complexity and are important in representing the terroir.

There will be no harm in holding onto these bottles for a few years and quite probably even longer. Tannat, for all its wild tannins, has an ability to grow deliciously soft and silken when mature, while the Cabernets in this blend will pick up evocative notes of sandalwood and incense. With pricing this low, there's no reason not to stash a pile of these in the cellar to have at the ready for whenever the mood or menu strikes.

To order, click below, email us at or call the store at (212) 980-9463.

Joe Salamone
Wine Buyer
Crush Wine & Spirits

2006 Ilarria Irouleguy Rouge Half-Bottles