(Pays Basque, France)
It’s difficult to quantify the work of a winemaker whose project crosses borders. Imanol Garay, originally from San Sebastian lives, farms, and vinifies wines in the French Pays Basque, about an hour southeast of Biarritz, and near the Pyrénees Atlantiques. To make things more complex, he also helps farm fruit on the Spanish side of Basque Country, where he sources most of his red grapes from, as well as Riesling and other white grapes. It’s this unclassifiable quality that has made Garay a sort of outlier in the world of vin nature, but it’s also exactly this hard to pin down nature that makes his wines so appealing to me.
While I find Imanol’s red wines rustic and enjoyable at the table, especially with a bit of age, it is his whites that affect me most, and what I’ve decided to focus on for a restock of his wines at Canta—inspired by Richard Leroy’s (Imanol once worked as a barrel salesman, and sold barrels to Leroy) classically reductive and slightly oxidative Chenin Blancs from the Anjou, Imanol’s Ixilune cuvée feels both as homage to Leroy, as well as its own unique world. The reduction draws one in immediately, but it’s the complex and long, salty and swirly finish that keeps the drinker going back for more. This is a classic wine to blind your Jura fanatic friends on, as Savagnin is usually the first guess to be blurted out. Garay is a north star to a new generation of winemakers who moved to the Pays Basque during the pandemic, and it was inspiring to see so much energy around him and his wines during a week spent in the area last September during harvest. Garay himself is an insane ball of energy who seems to never stop, and this intensity is no doubt transferred into these bottles.
Ixilune 2018 (clear glass)
Petit Manseng / Petit Courbu
Raffiat de Moncade / Petit Manseng / Petit Courbu / Riesling