Category: Araba (page 1 of 3)

Tentative agreement reached in call for recognition of Rioja Alavesa/Arabako Errioxa

Rioja wine from Araba. Picture by Agne27, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Our resident wine expert, CBS grad student Kerri Lesh, has posted previously (see her posts here and here) on the debate in Araba wine circles over whether to create a new and distinct classification of the wine produced in this Basque province outside the Rioja label under which it is currently categorized. The latest news in this regard is that a tentative agreement has been reached between the Rioja Regulating Council and ABRA (the association representing some 40 Araba winemakers seeking a distinct classification) whereby the latter will forgo its pursuit of a distinct label in return for a new labeling policy that will, theoretically and within two years, list the respective sub-division of the wines produced in the Rioja region (Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta, or Rioja Baja) equally in size on the labels (a key part of the demands from certain Araba producers) to the traditional Rioja brand mark. In theory, then, from the 2017 harvest onward, bottles of Rioja originating in Araba will be clearly labeled as such in a font equal to the generic Rioja label, thus allowing consumers to choose clearly from which sub-division of the Rioja producing area they prefer to purchase their wine.

A restaurateur, priest, and a rancher…

…Walk into a bar?

No!  “Un restaurador, un ganadero, y un cura…” make Txakoli!  At least that is what the label of Txakoli Uno from Goianea Bodega says.  The Bodega GOIANEA produces wine through the collaboration of Juan José Tellaetxe (priest), Jose Cruz Guinea (restaurant owner), and Jose María Gotxi (rancher).  I met two out of these three guys this last weekend here in the Basque Country during the Arabako Txakoli Eguna 2017 celebration.  This wine uses the autochthonous grapes (Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia) from the Designation of Origin of Álava, and is quite tasty I might add! They had another version aged on its lees and in barrels that was also being served up on Sunday, but I settled on just buying a bottle of the crisper version.  The words seen on the label Bat Gara, meaning “we are one,” caught my eye as I have an appreciation for those that decide on using Basque in their advertising.  Check out the video to learn more about Txakoli Uno from Goianea Bodega, below!

Goianea Bodega Video

 

 

April 18, 1815: A Daring Basque Robbery

On April 18, 1815, a convoy including the Duke of Bourbon, the cousin of the King of Spain, Ferdinand VII, was making its way over the Arlaban Pass that marks the border between Araba and Gipuzkoa. On the steep climb up the hill, the carriage containing the duke, which was being pulled by two oxen, became slightly separated from the convoy. Seizing the opportunity, five armed men appeared from out of the woods and proceeded to liberate the duke of all the equipment, treasures, and documents he was carrying.

Asalto al coche (Robbery of the coach), 1786-1787, by Francisco Goya. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The Arlaban Pass had, it should be noted, gained an infamous reputation for such highway robbery. Indeed, many of the so-called highwaymen gained a kind of infamous notoriety, men like the guerrillas Espoz and Mina as well as Sebastián Fernández de Leceta or “Dos Pelos” (Two Hairs). 

Witnesses to the robbery said that the thieves were Basques, as could be discerned from their accents, which also led people to believe they came from an area between Tolosa and Hernani in Gipuzkoa. The main suspect was subsequently thought to be one N. de Lazkao, who was fairly identifiable because of his green eyes and red beard. But despite the dispatch of multiple search parties and an investigation that lasted ten years, no one was ever apprehended.

Information sourced from Iñaki Egaña, Mil noticias insólitas del país de los vascos (Tafalla: Txalaparta, 2001), pp. 167-68.

Naiara de la Puente – A Basque at the Latin Grammy Awards

The Latin Grammy Awards will be held tonight, November 17, in Los Angeles, and this year the accordionist Naiara de la Puente, a native of the capital Vitoria-Gasteiz, is up for the Best Latin Children’s Album award, thanks to her collaboration on Canciones y Palabras, organized by Veleta Roja Editions.

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De la Puente is quite an accomplished musician. She holds a degree in Accordion Pedagogy from Musikene (the Conservatory of the Basque Country) as well as a Master’s in Music from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki and she undertook a graduate course at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. She is currently pursuing her PhD at the Sibelius Academy. She has won awards at the Certamen Nacional de Arrasate, the V Concurso Instrumental Sant Anastasi, the Grand Prix de Andorra, and the Certamen Internacional Jóvenes Intérpretes Pedro Bote. Alongside her solo performances, she is a member of the Krater and SMASH Ensembles.

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The album Canciones y Palabras is based on 10 poems by Cuban writer Aldo Méndez. The format is more than just a recording: it includes an illustrated book that contains each of the songs and poems alongside activities designed to spark youngsters’ musical creativity. Carlos Cano and Henrán Milla, both professors at the Marcos Redondo Conservatory in Ciudad Real, were in charge of putting together the project and making the poems into music, while Inés Vilpi illustrated the book. Dozens of musicians are present in the project. Overall, the album represents a greater collaboration between musicians and artists and we wish them luck, zorte on!

For more information on Naiara de la Puente, please visit her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/naiaradelapuenteaccordionist/

EITB has a short video up (in Spanish) about Naiara and the album, available at: http://www.eitb.eus/es/cultura/videos/detalle/4488045/video-la-vitoriana-naiara-puente-nominada-premios-grammy/

Lastly, be sure to visit Veleta Roja’s website: http://www.veletaroja.org/#

 

Cross of Gorbeia 115-years-old

On Saturday, November 12, the emblematic Cross of Gorbeia, one of the most distinct features in the Basque Country, will be 115-years-old. Mount Gorbeia, straddling the border between Bizkaia and Araba, is 1,482 meters (4,862 feet) high. It remains an important symbol, especially for Bizkaians, for whom it is their highest mountain. It is equally known for the imposing metal cross that stands at the summit, measuring around 17 meters (56 feet) high.

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The third cross of Gorbeia, erected some time around 1910. Photo of Indalecio Ojanguren by Ojanguren himself, c. early-20th century. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In 1899 Pope Leo XIII ordered that crosses be erected on the highest Christian mountains to herald the coming of a new century. As a consequence, a work commission was established in Zeanuri, Bizkaia, organized by the town priest, Juan Bartolomé de Alcibar, and presided over by the archpriest of Zigoitia, Araba, José María de Urratxa, to implement the pope’s orders by erecting a cross on the peak of Gorbeia. The construction project was headed by the architect Casto de Zavala y Ellacuriaga and had a budget of 50,000 pesetas. The original cross was 33 meters (108 feet) high. Delays to the project, however, mean that the cross was not installed in 1900, as originally planned, but a year later, on November 12, 1901. What’s more, the original cross only lasted a month and half, before collapsing as a result of the notoriously strong winds that are common on Gorbeia (local shepherds are reputed to have warned of this possibility from the outset). A second cross was then put up in 1903, although it, too, succumbed to gale-force winds in 1906. A third and final cross, which took much of its inspiration from the Eiffel Tower and was designed by Serapio de Goikoetxea and Alberto de Palacio y Elissague, was erected some time around 1910, this time measuring much less than the first two attempts.

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Mount Gorbeia, as seen from Vitoria-Gasteiz. Photo by Zarateman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Shortly afterward, on October 13, 1912, following the recent creation of the Sporting Club of Bilbao, it organized a hiking excursion to the top of Gorbeia attended by 145 hardy individuals. This set in motion a tradition, that lasts to this day, for Bizkaians of all ages to make at least one visit to the emblematic summit of Gorbeia. This excursion is especially popular on both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Information sourced from: http://www.deia.com/2016/11/05/bizkaia/costa/la-cruz-de-gorbea-115-anos-guiando-a-los-montaneros

Green Basque Country

There was an interesting article in the Noticias de Álava newspaper recently about a woodland and lumber fair held in Amurrio, Araba, last Sunday. It included the piece of data that, in the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC, made up of Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa), there are 106 trees per person , with a woodland area covering 396,700 hectares, or 55% of the total terrain. It is estimated, moreover, that the lumber industry accounts for 12 billion euros annually. This all points to the lumber sector being an important part of the Basque economy.

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The Irati Forest, Navarre. Photo by Juanma juesas, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

In “The Landscape of the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country: The Evolution of Forest Systems” by Lorena Peña and Ibone Amezaga, a chapter in Sustainable Development, Ecological Complexity, and Environmental Values, edited by Ignacio Ayestarán and Miren Onaindia, the authors address in detail the complex issues surrounding land use in woodland areas in the Basque Country.

See the original article in Noticias de Álava (in Spanish) here: http://www.noticiasdealava.com/2016/10/24/araba/euskadi-un-total-de-106-arboles-por-habitante

Atharratze to join Association of Bastides

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Town Council Square in Bastida-Arberoa/La Bastide-Clairence. Photo by Asp, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Bastides are a particular urban feature of South-West France: new fortified towns built in the medieval era, between 1230 and 1350, which were located on or near sensitive border areas and which served as more robust defensive mechanisms against potential attackers.

These were planned towns, with a central square and church surrounded by a well organized street layout. People were encouraged to settle in  these new towns and cultivate the land around them with incentives such as being granted a “free” status, meaning they would no longer be considered vassals of local lords. Today, they are a special feature of the region and an important destination for architecture enthusiasts as well as visitors more generally.

Bastides64 is an association of these bastides in the département of the Atlantic Pyrenees, incorporating Iparralde. It was established to protect and promote these historic sites. To date, Bastida-Arberoa (La Bastide-Clairence in French; La Bastida de Clarença in Gascon) in Lower Navarre has been the only Basque member of the association. As Philippe Veyrin comments in The Basques of Lapurdi, Zuberoa, and Lower Navarre, “Bastida (Labastide-Clairence) and Izura (Ostabat) are a case—here exceptional, though very widespread in Gascony—of towns created all of a piece to a preconceived plan. Baiona and Donibane Garazi were almost from the start fortified towns built on a key position.”

It has, however, just been announced that Atharratze (Tardets) in Zuberoa will also join as a full member in 2017.

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A panoramic view of Bastida, Araba. Photo by Imamon, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Interestingly, there is also a Bastida, (Labastida in Spanish) in Araba, which is also a fortified medieval town.

In his classic study The Basques, Julio Caro Baroja also discusses the history and architecture of Basque settlements.

Three Basque producers make 2016 Winners List in Great Taste Awards

The Great Taste Awards, organized by the Guild of Fine Food, is the acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink and has been described as the ‘Oscars’ of the food world. In 2016 over 400 judges, including specially trained food writers inputting judges’ comments, came together at 49 judging days from March through early July. The judges, from all corners of the food world, blind-taste in teams of 3 or 4 ensuring they get a balance of expertise, age, and gender.

Over 10,000 products were entered for the 2016 awards, with only 141 foods achieving the highest and most coveted rating, three stars; 878 foods received 2 stars and 2,520 were awarded a 1-star rating. That means only 35% of entries were accredited.The Golden Forks (the big winners) will be announced at a celebration dinner at the Royal Garden Hotel, London on the September 5.

In the sheep’s cheese category, there were 21 awards, 3 of which (including the only 3-star rating) went to Basque producers.

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The famed Idiazabal cheese. Photo by Xavigivax, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The coveted 3-star rating was awarded to the smoked Idiazabal sheeps’ milk cheese of the Mausitxa baserri in Elgoibar, Gipuzkoa.  This means that it made the prestigious top 50 foods list, which for the organizers “quite simply are the best fifty foods in the world each year.” As regards the Mausitxa smoked Idiazabal, in the judges opinion, “Although smoky on the nose and in the mouth, the flavour of the cheese is never overpowered and those who try it will be rewarded with a fresh, crumbly and slightly sweet finish.” Mausitxa also received a 2-star rating for its regular Idiazabal sheeps’ milk cheese.

The La Leze baserri in Ilarduia, Araba, received 2-star ratings for both its normal and its smoked Idiazabal sheeps’ milk cheeses, while the Etxetxipia baserri in Elizondo, Nafarroa was awarded a 2-star rating for its regular sheeps’ milk cheese.

Check out the Basque sheeps’ milk association here. What’s more, if you haven’t yet done so, you can download Hasier Etxeberria’s great introduction to Basque gastronomy, On Basque Cuisine, free here.

Study suggests genetic link between Late Bronze and Iron Age inhabitants and current Basque population

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A recent study published in the open access journal Plos One by the BIOMICs research group at the University of the Basque Country suggests a possible genetic link between people who lived in the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement of La Hoya and the current population of Guardia/Laguardia in Araba.

In the words of the authors’ abstract:

La Hoya (Alava, Basque Country) was one of the most important villages of the Late Bronze and Iron Ages of the north of the Iberian Peninsula, until it was violently devastated around the 4th century and abandoned in the 3rd century B.C. Archaeological evidences suggest that descendants from La Hoya placed their new settlement in a nearby hill, which gave rise to the current village of Laguardia. In this study, we have traced the genetic imprints of the extinct inhabitants of La Hoya through the analysis of maternal lineages. In particular, we have analyzed the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region of 41 human remains recovered from the archaeological site for comparison with a sample of 51 individuals from the geographically close present-day population of Laguardia, as well as 56 individuals of the general population of the province of Alava, where the archaeological site and Laguardia village are located. MtDNA haplotypes were successfully obtained in 25 out of 41 ancient samples, and 14 different haplotypes were identified. The major mtDNA subhaplogroups observed in La Hoya were H1, H3, J1 and U5, which show a distinctive frequency pattern in the autochthonous populations of the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Approximate Bayesian Computation analysis was performed to test the most likely model for the local demographic history. The results did not sustain a genealogical continuity between Laguardia and La Hoya at the haplotype level, although factors such as sampling effects, recent admixture events, and genetic bottlenecks need to be considered. Likewise, the highly similar subhaplogroup composition detected between La Hoya and Laguardia and Alava populations do not allow us to reject a maternal genetic continuity in the human groups of the area since at least the Iron Age to present times. Broader analyses, based on a larger collection of samples and genetic markers, would be required to study fine-scale population events in these human groups.

Read the full article here.

First stop on your Rioja Alavesa wine experience

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The main building, Villa Lucía. Picture taken from the center’s website.

If you are planning a trip to the Basque Country and one of your interests is the great Rioja wine of Araba, Rioja Alavesa, then an excellent starting point is the Villa Lucía Thematic Center of Wine. The center is located in Guardia/Laguardia, Araba, in a mansion that belongs to the family of the renowned neoclassical fabulist Félix María de Samaniego (1745–1801).

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The museum. Picture taken from the center’s website.

Visitors to the center can take an interactive tour of the wine-making process, visit the center’s museum and library, take part in an enogastronomic gymkhana–a fun way to find out more about food and drink by playing group-based games revolving around guessing the different aromas and characteristics of wine as well as trying to create your own pintxos–or just taste different grapes and take a crash course in wine tasting. There is also ample room on this country estate to stroll around its gardens (with over 200 plant and flower varieties) and have a drink and a meal or a snack while planning your visit to this fascinating and historic part of the Basque Country.

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A view of the gardens in the grounds of the estate. Picture taken from the center’s website.

For more information, click here.

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