A Copa Con...Egoitz Zapiain

It's Tuesday. That means it's time for "A Copa Con...", and this week I sat with Egoitz Zapiain, the third generation cidermaker of Zapiain cider.  Basque cider is quite different than its anglophone counterparts, and it's shrouded in a definite tradition, that of going to enjoy cider straight from the barrels during the season, with a meal of steak, omelettes, cod, cheese and nuts.

Apart from being one of the only cider makers in Basque Country trained under an enologist, he is one of the most passionate, hard-working people I know. The fact he STILL reports to his ciderhouse every night to tap the cider barrels for jovial diners is the epitomy of inspiration. So join us as we chat and taste the season's very first cider (it's going to be a good year).

What do you do?

I call myself a "chico para todo" {handyman}. My position is an investment in quality. Before, the cider was much more variable. Achieving that homogeousness is a lot of work. In October and November, I don't have friends, I don't have family.

What of your accomplishments are you most proud of?

The secret is knowing each barrel individually. It's a living product. Nowadays, I can know what the product in the barrel will be like three months from now.

What do you think about txotx season, when everyone fills the ciderhouse to sample the fruits of the year's labor?

The season of txotx is hard, but gratifying. You see people appreciate all the work you've done.

Why is this so popular in Basque Country?

It's a ritual, but people come most of all because they like it. It's a unique atmosphere. If you tell someone foreign you're taking them to a restaurant where you can't order, you have to stand up, it's cold, and to drink you have to walk...?  I think it's a beautiful thing to be with people different from you and talk with them.

Your hobby is foraging. What attracts you to looking for mushrooms?

It's something I've been grateful for, because you learn about nature, about survival.

Do you prefer to forage alone or with people?

I don't like to go alone. Generally I go to enjoy, and you don't want to enjoy alone. One time I took my son, and he said "Look, a mushroom!" Because of my height I didn't see it and my son did. It's cool. It gets you fired up, too, because he saw it and you didn't.

Food holds an important part in the people's lives here. Why?

In other places life is in the living room. Here the life is in the kitchen. It's almost like a religion. A saying in euskara: what you see, you do.

Thanks to Egoitz for his time and his cider.  Have any questions for me or Egoitz? Leave them in the comments section.