Basking in Basque poetry, music and wine at the book festival

Peter Ranscombe shares the wines served during an evening of Basque culture at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

FEW cultures have such strong links between their poetry and music and their food and drink as the Basque Country.

As I discovered when I visited San Sebastian back in April, music is taken almost as seriously as winemaking in this very special part of the world.

And those connections were illustrated beautifully again for me on Sunday night during the “Wine and Words” event inside the Spiegeltent at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The evening was staged as part of the “Scotland Goes Basque” strand across both the book festival and the Fringe and was supported by the Etxepare Basque Institute.

The audience of 150 wine enthusiasts were treated to poetry and music from Basque performers and to three wines from Alavesa, the section of the Rioja winemaking region that sits within the Basque Country – presented by yours truly.

For anyone who attended the event and wants to know where they can purchase the wines on show – or for anyone who missed it and wants to join in the fun for themselves at home – here’s a rundown of the bottles served during the tasting…

Biga de Luberri Crianza, 2016 (£7.54, (2015: £10.99, Justerini & Brooks)
A truly traditional Rioja nose, with wood smoke from the oak mingling with raspberry and redcurrant aromas. Those red fruit flavours are joined by vanilla and milk chocolate on the palate, with a warmth from the 14% alcohol and a freshness from the acidity.

Finca San Martin Crianza, 2014 (£14.16, Armit Wines; £11.95,
My favourite from the trio, with a warmer and brighter nose showing off more black fruit aromas, from blackcurrant through to blackberry and black plum, with less smoke and more vanilla. On the palate, the wine was extremely juicy, packed full of black fruit. It needs that fruit to balance the more assertive tannins, which make this a great candidate to serve with roast lamb or meatballs in tomato sauce.

Remelluri Reserva, 2009 (2011: £17.07,; 2012: £38.54, Winebuyers)
Who’s the daddy? While Crianza wines go on sale during the third year after harvest and after at least 12 months in oak, Reserva wines spent a minimum of a year in oak and at least a further six months in the bottle. That longer ageing period – and the older vintage – were definitely on show in the Remelluri, which displayed delicious wood smoke, leather and roast meat notes on the nose and then bitter dark chocolate, mocha and vanilla on the palate, with Rioja’s tell-tale dusty tannins.

Plus, look out for one famous Basque wine that wasn’t served on the night…

Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli 2016 (£15, Villeneuve Wines)
A walking tour around San Sebastian’s pintxos bars with Eli Susperregui from the city’s Mimo cookery school included Northern Spain’s lightly sparkling white wine, served in tall fluted bottles. Think Portugal’s Vinho Verde, but with the dial turned up to eleven. Its crisp acidity and fresh lemon and green apple flavours make it an ideal accompaniment for seafood or even garlic mushrooms.

To read more about the event, visit