The finale of the second day of IWINETC 2018 saw a delegation from the Basque Country (Euskadi) take the stage as it took over the IWINETC reins from the Budapest team that more than lived up to reputation of fine Hungarian hospitality.
An enthusiastic audience welcomed the official announcement that the Euskadi-Basque Country will be the host and destination for the 2019 edition of IWINETC. Alfredo Retortillo, Minister of Tourism, Trade and Consumer Affairs, Euskadi-Basque Country, whet participants palates with a taste of what to expect. He highlighted the fact that Euskadi-Basque Country has the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants on the planet, with 31 packed into a relatively small area that can be traversed in just two hours and is home to two million inhabitants.
The conference action of the 2019 edition of edition of IWINETC will take place in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz on March 12-13 in the stunningly designed Palacio de Congressos. The city’s mayor, Gorka Urtaran, was one of the delegation members to make it over to Budapest.There will also be two days of excursions into Rioja Alavesa, the Rioja sub-region that lies in the Basque Country.
Rioja Alavesa is the smallest of the three Rioja sub-regions but it is very much a case of small is beautiful. It is noted for its excellent wines, as well as for its picturesque landscapes, delicious food and ground-breaking winery architecture. The latter includes the remarkable Marques de Riscal Hotel by Frank Gehry, who put the Basque Country on the architectural map with his design of Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum. There’s a strong resemblance between these two landmark buildings. Another contemporary classic is the wonderfully wavy Bodegas Ysios, designed by Santiago Calatrava. A further masterpiece of modern architecture in Rioja Alavesa is the glass box structure of Bodgeas Baigorri, built and designed by Basque architect Iñaki Aspiazu.
Rioja Alavesa lies above the River Ebro and is the northernmost of the three sub-regions with its vineyards typically located at high altitudes, making for cooler climatic conditions to the rest of Rioja. A tasting of Rioja Alavesa’s mainly red wines (although there was also one white from made from the Viura grape) at IWINETC revealed the trademark cool classiness associated with this part of Rioja. Incidentally, Rioja Alta is also home to seven producers of Txacoli. This über fruity dry white, which is often slightly sparkling, is fast gaining attention on the international stage and will also feature in IWINETC 2019. Stand by for further bulletins as the programme for 2019 is prepared. Over to the Basque Country for what will be the 11th edition of IWINETC!
Robert Smyth is a Budapest-based wine journalist, writer and communicator. He is the author of Hungarian Wine: A Tasting Trip to the New Old World (Blue Guides, 2015). He has been been covering wine for more than 15 years and writes on Hungarian and international wine for the Budapest Business Journal (BBJ), Winesofa.eu, VinCE Magazin and Wine Connoisseur, among others. He’s also served as deputy editor of the Circle of Wine Writer’s Update and edited David Copp’s Wines of Hungary and contributed to the same author’s Tokaj: a companion for the bibulous traveller. He holds the WSET Diploma and Advanced certificates from London’s Wine and Spirit Education Trust, run tastings for Tasting Table and also guide tours for Taste Hungary. He regularly judges at Hungarian and international competitions and also translates wine text from Hungarian to English.