Okay, I know at first glance if you are unfamiliar with this wine or with the language of the Basque region of Spain, you might wonder, how in the world do you say this? It’s easier than it looks. “tx” is the “ch” sound in this language, so “cha – koli”.
The word makes me think of chocolate, but the wine is far from that. Bright with lemon and strong mineral notes with a slight effervescence, this is the perfect wine for the warm days of summer.
When the World Wine Travel group of writers settled on the Basque region for this month’s topic, I knew this was the wine I wanted to find.
The #WorldWineTravel group will be exploring this region led by Jill Barth of L’Occasion. You can find her preview post here. You will find links to my colleagues’ writings below. If you are interested in learning more or want to share your love of this region, we will be gathered on Twitter on Saturday Morning June, 26th at 8 am Pacific or a more reasonable 11 am Eastern time in the US, to discuss the region and it’s wines.
Join us by using and following the hashtag #WorldWineTravel
Basque Country (País Vasco)
Often when I see maps of Spain, it is in isolation, just an outline of the country. I know in my mind where the Pyrénées lie to the North East that borders France, I picture the Mediterranean to the East and the Atlantic to the West, but for some reason, my brain forgets about the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian Sea.
The Bay of Biscay is a wide inlet that dips into the side of Europe on the Atlantic from the Northern Coast of Spain and up the western coast of France. It has some of the fiercest weather on the Atlantic causing severe harsh winters.
The bay has long been feared by seamen. There are Atlantic swells near the coast and being out on the water can be like being inside a washing machine.
The Cantabrian Sea is the Southern part of the Bay of Biscay, that buffets the Northern Coast of Spain. With a coastline dotted with stunning cliffs and colorful fishing villages this region is colorful and filled with traditions.
It is believed that the Basque people have been in this region for over 5,000 years. They fought off invasions from the Arabs, Romans, Visigoths as well as the French and Spanish. It wasn’t until 1516 that the Basques on the Spanish side of the Pyrénées agreed to join Spain, provided, they could be self-governing. In 1876 the Basque region finally came under the rule of Spain south of the Pyrénées and France to the north.
The language here is ancient, one of the oldest still spoken today. It was almost stomped out by Franco when he banned the language, but it is making a revival. This language predates the Latin-based romance languages. It is called Euskara and has eight modern dialects.
The region itself begins on the coast north of Bilbao in the Spanish Province of Biscay and follows the coast to Biarritz in Southern France.
Txakoli (or Txakolina)
The grapes for Txakoli (or Txakolina) are grown on hillside vineyards with high elevation, which gives them high natural acidity. Proximity to the sea often elevates mineral or salty notes in the wine.
There are three regions or DOs for Txakoli
- Getariako Txakolina DO
- Established in 1989, this is the oldest of the three DOs.
- Bizkaiko Txakolina DO
- Established in 1994 the vineyards of this region are planted close to Bilbao, along the coast and inland, where they can get to 500 feet.
- Arabako Txakolina or Txakoli de Álava DO
- The youngest of the regions was established in 2001 and sits further inland than the other two. This is also a region for Rioja wine which has vineyards in the south part of the region.
We are going to focus on Getariako Txakolina DO.
Getariako Txakolina DO
This is the largest of the three DOs which is located near San Sebastián. There are 433 hectares of vineyards, of which 90% are in the coastal area. Here vineyards are close to the coast but are planted on south-facing slopes for maximum sunlight and protection from the coast.
The grapes allowed here are Hondarribi Beltza which is a black grape that is often mistaken for Cabernet Franc. The other grape, which is much more often used for Txakoli is Hondarribi Zuri.
This is not as it might seem a white version of Hondarribi Beltza. According to the Oxford Companion of Wine, this is a name used for 3 varieties in the Pais Vasco region: Coubu Blanc, Crouchen & a hybrid called Noah. (Zuri actually means “white” in Basque (source)
The name comes from Hiruen Uzta, which means a “three-person Harvest”. The Rekalde family, father, Asensio with his sons Txarli, and Angel built this winery in Hondarribia. When the Getariako Txakolina DO opened to plantings in the Gipuzkoa in 2007, they planted their vines. They opened their winery in 2012.
This region of Hondarribia had long been know for grape growing, with archives of vineyards dating to 1186. The region on the coast and the border was battered by battles and the enemy would often raze the gardens and pull up the vineyards. Many were permanently lost in the siege of 1638.
Hiruzta looks to recover and revitalize this grape named for this village and the cultural wine heritage of the region.
Their 17 hectares of vineyard are trellised on a south-facing slope, with great sun and cool breezes from the Jaizkibel cliff (as seen above)
The region is beautiful and when we researched with found so many beautiful images! The Northern side of those Jaizkibel is pretty beautiful also. As is the nearby village of Hondarribia, a medieval town that allows you to step back in time.
Hiruzta 2019 White Txakoli
This wine is 100% Hondarribi Zuri.
To make this wine they harvest the grapes and carry them in small crates to the winery. Small crates ensure that the berries on the bottom do not get crushed. At the winery, they destem and crush, then rinse and gently press, then let the juice settle at a cool temperature. They preserve the naturally occurring carbonation and do a gentle clarification and stabilization process then filter at a low temperature.
The resulting wine is effervescent, and the first thing that hit my nose was the scent of wet stones. Under this minerality, you find notes of lemon and lime, pear, and saline. This wine is bone dry with bright acidity and notes of bright rich lemon and mineral on the palate, maybe a bit of grapefruit in the background giving a just slightly bitter note of grapefruit pith.
12% abv – $19.99 SRP
Mastering the Basque High Pour
Now to make this a truly Basque Celebration, I needed to master the high pour. I thought it would be pretty easy. LOL! After drenching the dining Room table, I finally wised up and worked over the sink.
The high pour is great for presentation, but more than that, it released the carbon dioxide and gets those bubbles moving, which also increases the reléase of the aromatics in the wine.
The glasses for this type of wine are different also. These are short squatty glasses, similar to a rocks glass. My rocks glasses were too small for this so I opted for a taller glass.After a bit of practice with an empty Riesling bottle (which is a similar shape) and a few gallons of wáter, I found a few tricks to help my consistency.
- First, using a wine pourer, one of those little silver circles of mylar that you curl up and use as a spout, helped keep the flow steady.
- Second, elbow lifted! If you start with your elbow lifted, as you raise the bottle you have fewer moving parts in your arm and it makes it easier to stay on target!
- Lastly, perhaps it is my height, but I found that it was easier when I held the glass, rather than placing it on a table or counter.
So those are my cheats. I intend to practice and look forward to becoming more impressive with this parlor trick.
Pintxos to pair
We wanted to do classic Pintxos for our pairing. Pintxos (or pinchos) are like tapas but are a single bite. You find them in all the bars in the region.
We prepared 6 pintxos and did them in 2 styles, one-bite pintxos in a spoon and the traditional way on bread. I was excited to finally use this beautiful spoon tray that my dear friend RuBen gave me.
The first 4 I found on Spain on a Fork He has great step-by-step videos for these.
- Tortilla de espinacas con queso manchego (Spanish egg with spinach topped with manchego cheese)
- Pan con Tomate y Manchego (Spanish tomato bread with Manchego cheese)
- Atún con Anchoa (Tuna and anchovy pintxos)
- Pintxos de camarones al ajillo (Garlic shrimp)
I was craving something lighter, so we created a
- Pintxos de salmón y pepino (Salmon with cream cheese and dill in cucumber)
and as I had dates in the house, we did our favorite
- (bacon-wrapped dates) which would be Dátiles envueltos en tocino in Spanish
How did they pair?
The pairings were delicious and each a bit different. With the cucumber and salmon, the flavors seemed cooler and brighter with the wine and the wine was less bitter with a sweetness like clear fresh Spring wáter. The tortilla (keep in mind tortilla here means omelet) with the wine made the bite less heavy. The garlic shrimp seemed sweeter.
With the tuna and anchovy, the wine seemed to intensify the flavors. I overdid the garlic in the tomato bread and it hit my palate hot! The wine seemed to tone this down. Lastly, we had the bacon-wrapped date, which has always seemed like a red wine pairing to me. I wasn’t expecting this pairing to be very good, but as I like this bite, I made them anyway. I took my first sip of the wine with this and it wasn’t bad but wasn’t great, then quickly sweetened and was better than expected.
Overall these were great pairings! Keep in mind that this is for my palate. Everyone’s palate is different and some people are much more sensitive to bitter or sweet and that can make pairings different for them.
Okay, that was my Venture to Basque Country. I can’t wait to read what the rest of the #WorldWineTravel Group discovered! You will find the links to their pieces below! These will go live on Saturday, June 26th, 2021!
- Basque Country Means Pintxos and Txakolina by Jeff at Food Wine Click
- Fish Friday in the USA with a Spanish Txakolina Rosé by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Two Versions of Txakoli, Perfect Summer Wines from Susannah at Avvinare
- Almejas en Salsa Verde (Clams in Green Sauce) + 2019 Zudugarai “Amats” Getariako Txakolina from Cam at Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Basque Country Wines for Beginners and Great Food Pairings from Teri at Our Good Life
- Recalling Spain: Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rubentis and Shrimp from Martinat ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- Tasty Txakolina from Basque Country calls for fish by Linda at My Full Wine Glass
- Basque’s Effervescent Txakolina #WorldWineTravel from Gwendolyn at Wine Predator
- Cooking to the Wine: Ulacia Blanco Getariako Txakolina and Crispy Cod with Garlic, Jalapenos, and Lime by Nicole at Somm’s Table
- The History of the Basque Culinary World Prize by Jill on L’Occasion
More on Spain from Crushed Grape Chronicles
- Exploring the Kingdom of Aragon and its Wines
- Rueda and Verdejo just keep rolling with the #1 white wine in Spain!
- Priorat DOQ in Spain’s Cataluña region and Franck Massard’s 2015 “Humilitat”
- Viura – there is more to Rioja than Tempranillo
- Herederos del Marqués de Riscal Reserva Rioja 2014 – Day 11 of the 12 days of Wine 2020
- Cava: Traditional Method Sparkling Wine from Spain
- Priorat: Medieval Monks, Modern Rebirth and Outstanding Wine from Spain
Sources and Resources
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.