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There is a fountain of wine on the Way of Saint James

The Navarre town of Ayegui might have the next best thing to the legendary fountain of youth: a fountain of wine. Needless to say, the famed Wine Fountain of Irache (also spelled Iratxe, in the original Euskera) attracts pilgrims and wine enthusiasts alike. This fountain is not at all your typical water source. Instead, it dispenses free wine to weary travelers as they make their way to the holy city of Compostela. It is no wonder it has become a cherished symbol of hospitality and conviviality on the Camino –while offering a refreshing, generous, complimentary taste of local Navarre wine to those who pass by, pilgrims or not.

The wine that flows from the Fountain of Wine is traditional, typical Navarre wine, commonly known as vino de Navarra. Whereas perhaps not as internationally famous as La Rioja or the Catalan Priorat, Navarre is also a historic wine-producing region in Spain, with a rich viticultural tradition. Ayegui itself is surrounded by vineyards.

Codex Calixtinus
Codex Calixtinus

In fact, the light red wine that flows from this fountain has been historically celebrated for its fruity flavors and balanced acidity. Medieval codices such as the famed Codex Calixtinus refer to the town of Estella (only a few kilometers away from Ayegui, and also part of the Camino) as “a land of good bread and great wine.”

The unique aspect of this fountain is not only its free availability but also the fact that it dispenses wine from a tap (there is another tap for clean, fresh water too), providing a rather convenient (and surely enjoyable) respite for pilgrims on their oftentimes arduous journey.

The Monastery of Irache

The Fountain of Wine of Ayegui is better known as the Fountain of Irache. Indeed, since its very inception, this fountain has always been closely tied to the Irache Monastery, a medieval, Romanesque Benedictine monastic complex. Whereas the exact date of the monastery’s construction has never been established with all certainty, the first documented news of its existence date back to the year 958.

Monastery of Irache

Saying that the Irache Monastery is an essential part of the Camino de Santiago’s heritage is not, at all, an exaggeration. It played a pivotal role in providing hospitality and spiritual support to pilgrims for centuries. Indeed, pilgrims were always warmly welcomed here and offered a glass of wine. Even more so, the monks would commonly receive sick pilgrims into their hospital, providing them with a glass of fortified wine, which was then used as a restorative potion of sorts.

The wine fountain that now flows from the fountain is not produced in the monastery –which has been uninhabited since 1985, although it remains very much open to visitors. Instead, it is produced by a local winery, Bodegas Irache. These winemakers honor the very same tradition of monastic hospitality. In the late nineties, they formally installed the fountain, and have been refilling it with about 100 liters of wine per day ever since.

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This post is also available in: Español Italiano

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