Yes, the Vuelta España is over, however, our love of all fermentations from Basque County is not. And because, for 15 years, the Vuelta began and finished in Bilbao, we thought it most appropriate to finish our coverage of the Vuelta with Isastegi, a natural cider from Basque Country, which is also how we'll toast the announcement that next year's Vuelta will begin in Pamplona (also in Basque), of the running bulls fame.
An old family estate, the Isastegi farms originally supported livestock, but in 1983, the family switched from cattle to apple trees, so that they might extend the reach of their cider to the public. Initially, Isastegi cider was made in home for family and friends, but as word spread, along with demand, the family expanded. Recent renovations, including the addition of pressing and bottling rooms and space added for kupelas (large old oak cider barrels), has allowed for an increase in production. And though they grow their own fruit, Martin and Miguel Mari supplement their own stock with local apples from Tolosa.
Pale gold in color and complex with a light spritz, Isastegi is a cider is for wine lovers. Unlike ciders from elsewhere in the world, this one is high in acidity, lacking in residual sweet, and funky. Fermented with indigenous yeast, it drinks like a lambic, austere and refreshing with sour apple notes. It's most certainly a brilliant homage to apple fruit.