Txakoli is a slightly sparkling, dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content produced in the Basque Country, we are particularly fond of the wines from the D.O. Getariako Txakolina made in the coastal region of Getaria, a gorgeous fishing village, where sea breezes just might add to Txakolí’s unique flavour.
This town is also famous as the birthplace of Juan Sebastian Elcano, a Basque explorer who completed the first circumnavigation of the globe (sorry, Magellan fans). The famed haute couture designer Cristobal Balenciaga was also born in Getaria.
Txakolí is made largely from a local grape that is difficult to pronounce because it has no translation, it has kept its original Basque name: Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarribi Beltza. 90% of the grapes used are white Hondarrabi Zuri. The red Hondarrabi Beltza is separated quickly from its skin so as not to affect the color of the wine.
The vines are grown on terraces and steep hills overlooking the ocean which benefit from the sea breeze, a natural ventilation that helps prevent mildew and disease in this humid, rainy environment.
The grapes are hand-harvested and delivered to the winery, where they are immediately chilled down almost to a freezing point and blanketed with nitrogen, an inert gas that prevents oxidation, and a process that preserves freshness, juiciness and tangy acidity.
After pressing, the must is fermented with native yeasts in steel tanks. The fermentation is long and carefully controlled. At the end of the fermentation process when the wine is quite dry the tanks are closed and the residual CO2 is integrated into the wine which gives it a slight natural fizz. The wine is left on its lees at a low temperature until ready for bottling
Txakoli is a young wine with a clean, fresh finish that has been consoling the men and women of the Basque Country for 1,500 years and continues to do so to this day.
The vast proportion of Txakoli is consumed in the Basque country. You find it virtually nowhere else in Spain, except in Basque restaurants, bars. Very little is exported around the world, with the United States being a major exception.
When you get a chance to hold a chilled bottle in your hands, remember, there are rules to serving and drinking it. Remove cork and, if you are not experienced in serving it’s best to insert an ¨escanciador¨: a plastic, usually dark green, pourer which also used for serving cider. It has the perfect size to go in through the bottles neck and four rims that go round it and help keep it in place. The top has two cavities on each side, one for air to go in and one for the wine to pour out.
Take a glass, traditionally a wide frame one, and place on a counter or if your feeling bold hold it with your free hand and tilt slightly so that when you pour the wine it hits the glass at an angle. Raise and tilt the bottle sideways so that it is completely horizontal and pour a steady serving of up to two or three fingers depth in the glass, no more.
Like they say here ¨little but often¨, this wine has to be served from a great height! Remember the more oxygen, the better and crisper the taste. You serve just enough to have a few sips and then serve again, if you filled the whole glass, the wine would go flat and the taste would change.
Here in the Basque country, we drink it all year round as an aperitif or together with a great meal, be it seafood or meat. It’s an integral part of the culture.