Kerri Lesh has spent the past calendar year conducting fieldwork in the Basque Country. Her research investigates how various components of Basque gastronomy promote cultural and linguistic maintenance. She has spent a significant amount of time living in San Sebastian, and also in Elorrio, learning about viticulture practices while improving upon her Basque language skills. Kerri presented a portion of her research at the Food Studies conference in Rome, Italy this October. She has also chaired and co-organized a panel that will be featured at the forthcoming annual American Anthropological Association, to be held in Washington D.C. this November. Kerri will return to the Center for Basque Studies in January 2018 to write her dissertation. We can’t wait to have her back. For now, we leave you with some photos of Kerri during her fieldwork. Although it’s tough work, I’m still envious of all the food and drink she’s had the chance to enjoy!
Kerri with Joseba Lazkano from Gaintza Txakoli
Kerri with Elena Arzak
Kerri with Hilario Arbelaitz in Zuberoa
Kerri Lesh, a PhD candidate at the Center in sociolinguistics and anthropology, recently posted on the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN) blog. In “Size Matters: How Semiotics is Making History in the World of Wine,” Lesh discusses the recent agreement on the part of Rioja winemakers to accept a separate designation whereby the Rioja wines of the Basque province of Araba/Álava are clearly demarcated from other wines within the overall Rioja brand.
What’s more, as noted in the post, Lesh has also co-organized, alongside Anne Lally, and will chair the panel “Taste and Terroir as Anthropological Matter” at the forthcoming annual American Anthropological Association meeting, to be held this November in Washington D.C.
Read the full post here.
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.
…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
It’s that time again! If you are in the Reno area (or feel the need for an adventure to the “Biggest Little City”) this month, Ty and his gang at Craft Wine and Beer are putting together quite the Basque gastronomic experience. I have learned over here in Euskal Herria that tasting is enhanced when able to simultaneously embrace multiple components of the Basque Culture, so check out the shindig Ty Martin has organized this month to eat, dance, and celebrate one of my favorite wines and the land from which it “stems,” the culture in which it is “rooted” ( bad wine jokes anyone?).
Check out Ty’s announcement as seen in his newsletter:
Next, Txakolina. It slipped out of our normal comfort zone last year but we’re back on track this season. As you can see from the photo that greeted you at the top of this missive we’re loaded for bear. We’ve got a few more tricks up our sleeve, including smoked chorizo from Villa Basque Deli, cidre’ on tap, and if we’re lucky, a few dancers from the Zazpiak Bat dance club. We’ll also be celebrating some May birthdays so if you want to toast some fantastic wine and shake a leg come on down on Sunday,
May 21st from 2p-6p. Flights, glasses, and food will be available.
It appears the three provinces of the Basque Autonomous Community are represented well here, and the warmer weather is the perfect time for indulging in this juice..so hit up Craft, drink txakoli, dance and be merry!
It is hard to believe I am finally here in the Basque Country. I’m tempted to say that I’ve waited a long time to get here to Euskalherria to start my fieldwork, but that wouldn’t be a completely accurate statement. I could even say with some certainty that this year’s work and life in the Basque Country will represent both a reduction and culmination of my life’s interests and experiences, however, that would be limiting to the extensions of those same interests which lead me here: languages, culture, wine, travel, food, diversity, and making connections with people around the world. So, before sharing the amazing experiences I’ve already had while studying here, I would like to highlight those which were had before my arrival to the Basque Country this January.
Knowing I would be conducting fieldwork here for a whole year, I wanted to take advantage of the time and opportunity to travel to South America with my father. In 2014, I spent an amazing time learning about the production and wine-making process in Casablanca, Chile. With so much Basque heritage there, I was delighted to discover that the Basque diaspora still held its roots firmly planted in this South American country. Finding the popular Basque wine called Chacoli was an adventure I won’t forget (see previous blog to read more about Chacoli in South America), discovering the ways in which a culture can change and be maintained across the globe. But before returning to Chile, my dad and I checked out some Basque culture in Argentina.
I had come to know of a Basque restaurant from a man who had wandered into the Center for Basque Studies before my departure. He told me about his family and how one of them had started a restaurant in Buenos Aires. I mentioned I’d be heading there soon, so he gave me the information to find Leiketio. The food and drink which combined aspects of both Basque and Latin American cuisine were amazing. However, the most satisfying part of the meal was being able to use the little Basque I had acquired from the previous summer to speak to a server who had recently moved from the Basque Country.
My second encounter with Basque culture in South America happened after my dad had returned to the US, and I had moved on for my second visit to Chile. I was in the beautiful, historic town of Valparaiso, listening to music and enjoying the warmer weather when a couple had passed me speaking Basque. I started talking to them and found out they were the band Niña Coyote and Chico Tornado (and very well known I might add in the Basque Country! See below for a clip of their music). Also turns out the family of one of the members lived on the same street that I currently live now here in Euskalherria!
Just goes to show that si, el mundo es un pañuelo! Hau bai mundu txikia! It’s a small world!
I hope to keep making these cross-cultural connections over the next year here. Stay tuned for more adventures in fieldwork from here in Euskalherria!
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).
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.
A view of the gardens in the grounds of the estate. Picture taken from the center’s website.
For more information, click here.
According to a recent report by Granconsumo.tv, the Basque Country and Andalucía have earned the highest growth rates in wine exports from Spain during the first quarter of 2016. The Basque Country experienced the biggest growth in sales ( 4.7 million euros) and Andalucía in production (1.4 million liters).
This phenomenon is interesting because overall wine exports in the Spanish regions have declined in both sales and volume due to steep price increases. Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, Valencia, and Murcia have all experienced a fall in sales and production. According to the report, the strategy to focus on added value has made the products of Basque Country and Navarre more competitive, hence mitigating the impact of price upsurge.
This time around in our series on Basque terroir, I’d like to thank María José Cortés Lamas for her article, “What Makes the Basque Violet Onion so Awesome?” which serves as the inspiration behind this latest post. I was aware of the fact that Zalla, a town in the Enkarterri/Encartaciones region of Bizkaia some fifteen miles west of Bilbao, is a producer of Bizkaiko txakolina wine, but I knew nothing of its renowned red onions.
Sliced red onion, one of nature’s great joys. Photo by Agon S. Buchholz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Onions, of course, are one of the most ubiquitous vegetables in the world, coming in all sizes, shapes, and colors. The onion is most frequently a biennial or a perennial plant, but is usually treated as an annual and harvested in its first growing season. Red onions in particular are high in flavonoids.
The red (or purple or violet, depending on your point of view) onions of Zalla are especially mild and sweet. As noted in the abovementioned article, for star Basque chef Eneko Atxa, of Azurmendi restaurant fame, they can be the key element to producing the classic red Bizkaian sauce (bizkaitar saltsa/salsa vizcaína). And, of course, as is only right and fitting, the Enkarterri Fest food festival, held each fall, gives pride of place to the red onions of Zalla.
Cod Bizkaian Style in the characteristic red sauce. Photo by Tamorlan, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
A quick note on Bizkaian sauce: According to Hasier Etxeberria, author of On Basque Cooking (free to download here), “This particular kind of sauce is equally suitable for meat or fish. In ancient times, this was our most exported recipe: the vizcaína or Bizkaian.” He goes on to discuss this sauce and offers a detailed recipe (pp. 63-65).