In the Pyrénées Atlantiques too, the winegrowing tradition is ancestral.
In the Basque province of Lower Navarre it was the monks in the 12th century who planted the first vines around the Abbey of Roncevaux and in the priories of Irouléguy – which gave its name to the AOC – and Anhaux.
The best way of seeing the wine area is, for example, to do an outing on the pilgrimage roads to Compostella, going through villages of character such as Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Bidarray or Ostabat.
In the neighbouring Béarn, Navarrenx, Oloron-Sainte-Marie and Salies-de-Béarn are also worth seeing, without forgetting the crafts workshops, the Gourmet Routes, or the golf courses… There is certainly plenty to do!
In Béarn, winegrowers produce… Béarn, Béarn-Bellocq and Jurançon, the wine used to baptise Henri of Navarre, the future King Henri IV. His grandfather wetted his lips with the wine.
The vines planted on natural terraces, and sometimes in cirques, are worth travelling to see since they offer superb views of the famous Pic du Midi d’Ossau.
Equally admirable – although in a different style – are the rows of bottles in the cooperative winery of Jurançon, in Gan. The wall lighting shows off all the nuances of this sweet white wine, from the pale, almost green, yellow through to a deep golden hue.
A little further northeast you will find Madiran and Pacherenc de Vic Bilh. Did you know that the harvesting of this latter wine lasts until 31 December? The wine - dry or sweet - produced from these very ripe grapes is unique.
Equally distinctive is the Madiran, only this time with red wines . The appellation, under threat in the 1950s (there were only 50 hectares left), returned to the fore thanks to the dynamism of the cooperative winery of Crouseilles. The finesse of the tannins and the intensity of the aromas did the rest.