Tag Archives: grapes

Roussillon

Roussillon was my favorite neighboring town to Lourmarin when I was a child.  It was the most far-out place, and when you went there you inevitably got dirty.  Although I was pretty prissy as a child, the type of dirty you got in Roussillon was all right with me–it wasn’t muddy blasé brown, it was bright orange.  That was a kind of dirty I could get down with.

new cliff

town new

As if the bright orange and red cliffs aren’t enough, all of the buildings in Roussillon are built with the pigmented clay that surrounds the village.  The naturally occurring ochre in the hillsides was mined until the 1930’s.  Mining has since been banned in order to protect the site from destruction.

Being in Provence inspired an obsession with crumbling old walls with plants growing out of them.  Roussillon’s reddish ones are particularly high on my list because of the red/green contrast (these pictures are so much more vibrant in original–the upload to WordPress just ruins the color).

wall

And my favorite door, from 1678.  Well, I’m not sure about the door, but the doorway is from 1678.

roussillon door

If you walk to the highest point in town you find a ceramic-topped circular map of the region, with Roussillon at its center.  You’ll find similar maps in many of the neighboring towns.

new map

close map new

Right before you reach the map at the top of the hill you’ll find the 16th century church surrounded by lavender.

new church

The exterior is fairly simple, but there is intricateness to be found inside.  One of my favorites is the altar.

altar

altar detail

Wheat and grapes have been the primary crops of Provence since the middle ages.

baptismal font

The baptismal font was added in the 17th century.

God

I love the intricate high relief on the ceiling.  Very dramatic.

lighting candles

After the church we walked back through town to the cemetary, which is quite beautiful.

cemetary

masoleum

egyptian jacques

I like calling this guy “Eqyptian Jacques.”

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Urki Txacolina

Ah Urki.  Some of you might remember that I wrote about a great afternoon I spent with Urki some time ago.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune to actually visit the place where this dreamy liquid is produced.  Many of the vineyards are close together, and just outside of Getaria. We drove around exploring a bit before arriving at Urki.

hillside

Clouds had covered the sky by this time, so we had no guilt or sadness about leaving the coast to go inside and have a tour of the winery.  Cypress hedges divide sections of vines to protect them from the coastal wind.

vines

You might be able to tell from this picture that the vines are trained differently here.  While in France and other parts of Spain the vines are allowed to grow in a more bush-like formation, the grapes for Txacoli are trained to grow about five feet tall on stakes, vertically, and then are spread out across wires in between the tall stakes.  My tour of Urki was conducted exclusively in Spanish, because the owner speaks Euskara dominantly and Spanish as a second language, so I understood bits and pieces, and a bit more with the aid of our co-tourers who were Spanish-speaking French (we had French in common).  Through these somewhat complicated linguistic avenues I understood that Txacoli, a young wine that is aged for only a few months, needs a lot of sun as a grape in order to cultivate enough sugar to balance the natural acidity of a young wine [Wikipedia states “the grapes for this txakoli are grown according to the treille (or trellis) system (called parra in Basque) system. In this system the vines are cultivated at a greater height above the ground, with the foliage forming a continguous canopy to improve the microclimate”].  Many “Txacoli” producers add elements of sweeter grapes such as Chardonnay, Reisling, and Muscat, in order to increase the sugar content of Txacoli.  But, it is essential to note that any wine that has any content of the aforementioned grapes is not authentic Txacoli.  Txacoli is 100% Hondarrabbi-Zuri grapes.

house

This is an old house in the area I found on the way to Urki.

driving up better

Above:  the building at the end of the road ahead is the Urki winery.

urki's uvas

These are the uvas of Urki.  Some other wineries might use grapes from elsewhere, but Urki only uses the grapes they cultivate themselves.  In the fall of each year (approximately October) Urki employs forty people for ten days to hand-harvest all of their grapes for that year’s vintage.  The grapes are harvested and then pressed and processed by an impressive array of French machinery (the French and the Italians make higher quality winemaking machinery, typically, than do the Spanish).  While I didn’t understand much about the machinery, I enjoyed taking some pictures.

machinery

machinery2

galaxy bottler

galaxy

vats

In this relatively small row of eight tanks, all the Txacoli that Urki makes each year is aged.

It is currently late in the Txacoli season.  The 2009 vintage is running low, and the 2010 is months away from completion (Getaria hosts an annual Txacoli festival for the first Txacolis of the season in January each year).  But some Txacoli is kept in tank #5 for visitors, and we got to have some straight from the tap.

tasting

Urki’s Txacoli is 100% Hondarrabi-Zuri grapes.  The effervencense in Txacoli is a natural occurence, which I understand is caused by the reaction of the sugar and acidity in the aging process.  Many inauthentic Txacolis contain a greater appearance of frizzante, but this is caused by an artificial injection of CO2.  It is the custom in Spain to pour Txacoli from a great height, thus increasing the aroma and frizzante qualities.  Do not be fooled.  If you are drinking authentic Txacoli, both effervecense and aroma will occur without your server pouring from a two or three foot height.

Visiting Urki was a truly special experience.  Though this vineyard has only been in operation for two years, they have a clear devotion to the cultivation of a unique specialty from the Basque region.  Muchimas gracias a Kristian para su ayuda y la visita.

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