Good taste when it comes to eating has made Euskadi worthy of international fame and Álava has helped make it so. Gastronomy together with fine wines from Álava are a reference point, and few pleasures beat sitting at the table to savour dishes made with the best products, traditions and techniques.
In recent years the gastronomy of Álava has become a benchmark thanks to the endeavours that turned this territory into the international capital of gastronomy. Over various years at the Signature Cuisine Congress, Michel Guerard, Alain Ducasse, Joël Robuchon and Michel Bras cooked on stoves in Álava, and in 1988 Ferrán Adriá made himself known.
Experts claim that good cooking starts with good raw materials and they are not wrong. For this reason, fresh, traditionally produced produce from our villages and towns takes pride of place in the cuisine of Álava.
We find products for traditional dishes from Álava, such as broad beans, chard stems, the Alava pinto bean or sweetbreads, as well as others that deserve a special mention such as perretxikos (St. Georges mushroom) and snails, which are especially appreciated during the feast of San Prudencio, 28th April.
And we must not overlook the products made from the livestock of Álava, cheeses, dairy products such as curds and sweets.
The Liqueur Museum is located in the town of Amurrio and is the first of its kind in Euskadi.
Its exhibition traces the history of the Manuel Acha distillery, founded in 1831, which produces such famous brands as Liquor Karpy orange liqueur or Pacharán Sierra de Orduña sloe berry liqueur; And examines the history of distilling.
For example, the visitor can see barrels used in the early twentieth century, ledgers, advertising material from over one hundred year ago and references to the Karpy cycling team, a professional team during the 60s and 70s.
Oil from Rioja Alavesa
The production of olive oil in Rioja Alavesa can be traced back for centuries, however, the activity became less important than vine growing and wine production.
Nonetheless, in the past few years there has been a project to re-establish olive growing and improve the quality of the oil production process.
This project promotes a traditional gentle pressing to obtain a high quality product that preserves and respects all of the intense fruity aromas that are characteristic of the native Arróniz olive variety. Olive oil from Rioja Alavesa produced in the olive presses in Moreda, Lanciego and Oyón.
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Salt from Añana
The Salt Valley, in Salinas de Añana, produces four types of salt, naturally and ecologically
Spring mineral salt, rich in minerals and trace elements, which enhances the flavour of all types of food.
Salt flower flakes, suitable for giving that final touch of luxury to meat and fish.
Liquid spring salt , specially suitable for dressing salads and spraying on meats and fish.
Salt Stalagmites, grated over finished dishes produce a fine salt that dissolves quickly in the mouth.
The groundwater that runs through Añana traverse a ten square kilometre block of salty sediments left over from an ancient ocean. Salinas de Añana has one of the best salts in the world, with a salt concentration of 254 g/l (the sea is between 33 and 39).
Between May and October, the salt pans are filled with the salt water that flows from the Santa Engracia spring, after crystallization it is harvested with a roller and then poured into baskets to improve draining. The resulting salt is stored and then packaged for sale.
Salty Valley covers an area of 111,000 square meters and is made up of 5,648 salt production platforms based on natural evaporation of the brine or salt water.
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Black Truffle of Álava
The black truffle of Álava, called Boilur beltza in Basque, is the queen of truffles. It is an edible subterranean fungus, highly prized for its intense, delicate fragrance.
As it ripens, its pulp turns purplish-black streaked with white veins. For its part, the summer truffle is an irregularly shaped lobe with dark hazelnut pulp and greyish veins.
Black truffle, and also the summer one, has been gathered in Álava under holly oaks, oaks and hazels since time immemorial, mainly in the Montaña Alavesa regions. Its has been farmed in our territory for about twenty years and the planted area covers about 150 hectares.
The black truffle harvesting season in Álava is regulated and begins on 1st December and ends on the last day of February. A trained dog is used to collect it. The dog is attracted by the fragrance that the truffle gives off, locates it and begins to dig away the earth until it is revealed. The harvester then removes the earth surrounding the fungus and carefully extracts it.
Idiazábal Sheep’s Milk Cheeses
Idiazabal cheese is made exclusively in Alava, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Navarre, using raw milk from latxa or carranzana sheep.
Ecological production: With an exceptional flavour and quality due to its environmental and growing-cycle friendly cultivation, it is produced on more than 20 farms throughout Álava.
Honey from Álava
Honey from Álava is noted for its creamy texture and rich aroma.
Although the most prized honey is produced from the flower of the six varieties of heather that thrive on our mountains, there are also some remarkable honeys produced from chestnut, rosemary, oak, acacia and blackberry.
The bees collect nectar from the flowers and transport it to the hive where, after various transformations, it becomes honey, which the bees then cap with a film of wax called the operculum.
The honey from the small hives is then processed in the traditional way by a beekeeper. Extraction is performed by centrifuge and it is not pasteurized, ensuring that all of its properties remain intact, and obtaining a healthy, clear, quality honey.
The Museum of Honey , located in Casa Oregi, in the centre of Murgia village, we enter the wonderful world of beekeeping, allowing us to see where and how honey is produced in the Gorbeia area. It exhibits instruments and various items traditionally used in hive management and in the production of honey and its by-products.
The confectioners of Álava have won many awards thanks to the traditional production of handmade confectionery.
Among the most popular are the “vasquitos y nesquitas” handmade chocolates, truffles, chocolate liqueurs, nougats, goxua (typical dessert), Gasteiz tart, candied egg yolks, polvorones (shortbread) and marzipan figures.