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Passion for Spanish wine

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Award-winning sommelier Jon Andoni Rementeria has turned Remenetxe grill house into a great meeting point for wine lovers. Located in the Basque region of Urdaibai (Bizkaia), it is a good stopover for those visiting this beautiful area surrounding the Gernika estuary, declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1984.

The restaurant is located at the entrance of Gernika. Housed in a carefully restored “caserío”, the traditional farm house in the Basque Country, it is large enough to hold all kind of events and celebrations. It also happens to be practically next door to Itsasmendi, one of the most well-known txakoli producers in the area.

Remenetxe was founded in 1987 by Jon Andoni’s parents, Jose Antonio Rementería and Rosa Maria Etxeandia, its name being the result of joining their surnames. Jon Andoni, who was 17 at the time, helped in the restaurant on weekends. He soon caught the wine bug and started laying down some of the bottles purchased by his parents.

His intuition, combined with the fairly common Basque habit of buying generous quantities of wines, has allowed Remenetxe to offer a wide selection of Riojas form the 1970s and 1980s at very reasonable prices, including brands such as Faustino, Murrieta, Imperial or Viña Real as well as early vintages of Remelluri or Artadi. There are some older wines but they are part of Jon Andoni’s personal collection and are not for sale.

As expected, Rioja names dominate his wine list, totalling over 1,400 brands with young and brave new producers like Tentenublo as well as a dynamic selection of local Txakoli wines. There are almost 300 foreign wines sharing cellar space with others from various Spanish regions, something which it’s not always easy in an area so deeply attached to Rioja. However, foreign wine lovers looking for classic wines are regular customers these days.

Dishes are based on the Basque Country’s traditional cuisine with high quality local produce: vegetables from nearby “caseríos”, outstanding meat and fresh fish brought from the port of Bermeo 15 kilometres away from Gernika. Although quality comes at a cost, wine lovers will find wine prices extremely attractive.

For several years now, Jon Andoni has kept an extensive cellar separated from the restaurant where he organizes all kinds of tastings and events. A big fan of everything that has to do with wine, he is also happy to hold custom-made tastings. A.C.