“Txotx! Txotx!” Everyone chimes in together. It’s late in the evening at one of the Basque country’s typical ciderhouses. Diners leave their spot at large picnic tables to line up at the spout of a Kupela (a large and old wooden foudre) for a splash of sidra. This may happen anywhere from a few to many times throughout the night, with drinkers guzzling down a few fingers of sidra or so at a time. They’ll be eating the typical Basque sideria (cidery) menu of bacalao (salted cod) and grilled chuletón (ribeye), followed by Basque sheep’s milk cheese for dessert. It is not uncommon for diners to break out into song or dance after the meal; you will hear traditional Basque songs, and if you are lucky it will be accompanied by an accordion player. The Arratzain Inn is no different, they are as traditional as any other sideria in the area, although they stand out for their commitment to organic farming and minimal intervention in the cellar. Their sidras are tart, tangy, and refreshing, due to an utmost respect for detail and quality. Located in the Usurbil mountains above San Sebastian, the Arratzain Inn has been home to cider production for nearly 500 years. The planting of apple orchards and cider production in the Basque Country dates back to the 11th century, as does a strong gastronomic tradition which is closely linked to this type of tart and tangy cider. The inn and sideria (cidery) has been a part of the Arratzain family for generations, and in 2000, brothers Aitor and José Ignacio Lisaso took over all daily operations, managing all aspects of farming for their 3 hectare orchard and when there is time to spare, they welcome guests in their agriturismo, their charming inn above the sideria. With a handful of rooms, guests are able to participate in sidra production if they are there during harvest.
The Lizaso family received organic certification in 2010 and only work with native Basque apples. They are one of the only siderias in the Basque country using an entirely organic production. All of the tree plantings are carried out by what would be the equivalent of massale selection in the wine world. There have been at least 80 varietals documented and the Lizasos are keen to protect these traditional varieties, in an age where more and more of the large cider houses are purchasing apples from outside the region. Sagardo Naturala is made from 20-30 different apple varieties: 60% for acid, 30% for bitterness, and 10% for sweetness. The pneumatic pressed juice is fermented with wild yeast in stainless steel tanks, then raised in traditional kupelas (large wooden foudres) over the winter. They bottle at the inn with minimal SO2 and no filtration to emphasize the lively apple purity.
Sagardo Naturala is made from 20-30 different native Basque apple varieties: 60% for acid, 30% for bitterness, and 10% for sweetness and all certified organic estate trees. The pneumatic pressed juice is fermented with wild yeast in stainless steel tanks, then raised in traditional kupelas (large wooden foudres) over the winter. They bottle at the inn with minimal SO2 and no filtration to emphasize the lively apple purity. This is a brisk and acid-driven cider with grip and sap – super refreshing and wonderful for summertime barbecues or just chugging at leisure.