The son of a farmer, Pierre Oteiza is a breeder and artisan producer established in his native village of “Les Aldudes” ( 300 inhabitants), located 50 km from Bayonne in the heart of the Basque Country in the Pyrénées mountainside.
After learning the art of butchering in Paris from a very young age with his uncle, Pierre Oteiza came back to Les Aldudes to manage his family-owned farm in 1975, before creating with the help of his wife, Catherine, the “Gastronomie de la Vallée des Aldudes” company in order to promote the food of this region by working with local local breeders, pig farmers and cheese producers.
In 1988, while promoting his work in a Paris event, Pierre Oteiza discovered a very rare breed of Basque pigs “Pie Noir”, which was on the brink of extinction by then, after the gradual vanishing of oak trees, their main source of food, due to deforestation and decades of intensive farming during the first half of 20th century. When he bought 2 of these last 30 remaining specimens, Pierre made a pledge to save them from extinction.
With the support of other local breeders, he was gradually able to revive the “Pie Noir” Basque pigs in the Aldudes valley, which allowed local producers to work together in creating a new range of fresh meat and ham products under the Pierre Oteiza brand in the 90’s.
From then, the company slowly expanded till they finally obtain in 2016, after much efforts and investments, the famous french AOP label (or PDO, protected designation of origin, a guaranteed quality label) for their “Basque pork” fresh meat, and in 2019 for their cured ham which attests fully to the high quality of their products, under the name of “Kintoa” meat and ham.
The Pie Noir roams free, in the forest and in the mountainside. They take shelter in wooden cabins made with fern roofs while they mainly feed on herbs and seasonal fruits like chestnuts, acorns, beechnuts (from September to the first snow) and on a food supplement of –GM free cereals given daily by the breeders to preserve its food balance.
Ham from Les Aldudes Valley is treated with salt from the Bassin de l’Adour and cured in a natural drying shed for 10-14 months, whilst AOC Kintoa ham is cured for 16-18 months to produce a dark red, marbled meat with a strong fruity taste and firm texture.
Today, AOP Kintoa ham is enjoyed by discerning diners across French Basque Country and beyond, and 32 years after Pierre Oteiza first came across those showcase pigs in Paris, he owns eight shops across French Basque Country and two more in Paris. Oteiza products are also stocked by butchers and fine food shops from the Mediterranean coast to the Loire Valley and countries all over the world!