BASKING IN THE GLORY OF BASQUE
THE TXAKOLI WAVE
Today’s Wine Judging at Sommelier Wine Awards brought back lovely memories of tasting this wine in Spain. Before that, I had only tasted it once (about 5-6 years ago) during one of my exploratory regional wine studies. This is the wine called ‘Txakoli’. Pronounced as “Chakoli’, Txakoli is a white wine that is deeply attached to the Spanish history. Production has generally been concentrated in the North of Spain around the Cantabrian and Basque countryside making it a Wine of the Atlantic. Climatic conditions are cool, maritime here with heavy rains that make Txakoli, delicate and fruity, with medium to low alcohol levels. Most of the Txakolis are consumed for local consumption around Bilbao and San Sebastien region in the restaurants. Historically, it has been a popular wine served at home for lunches and dinner. Dry, pale lemon green, crisp and crunchy, the wine is slightly spritzy, displaying juicy green fruit characters, intensely lemony with delicate floral notes, slight grassiness, hint of stone fruit but what truly differentiates this wine from other wines, is its punchy acidity and its minerally backed saline finish. This makes it a beautiful wine to pair with sea food and summer salads. Meant to be drunk within a year of production Txchakoli is actually not a grape, but a floral, fruity and aromatic style of wine made out of a few varieties. Hondarabbi Zuri and Hondarabbi Beltza being the main constituents of Txakoli. Occasionally other grapes such as Chardonnay and Riesling are some local varieties are also allowed to be added where the DO rules permit.
Txakoli has been produced for many centuries but over the years, the quality of the wine kept deteriorating with no regulations to keep it under check. A once savored wine, slipped in terms of quality, to the point that it came to be infamously known as the ‘headache wine’ for its potent alcohol levels and the addition of other inferior grapes that diluted its character. So much so, that by the end of 1980s, the wine almost stopped being made in Spain and many of the vines were pulled out. Thanks to the tireless activities of a few Txakoli lovers, the wines have been revived since then. There are also efforts underway to bring out the quality and extend the age-ability of the wine. Some of the techniques I discovered in my blind tasting revealed the use of old French barriques, lees ageing to develop richness and soft texture in the wines as well as single plot and potentially hand-picked selections with longer macerations to bring out a stony and flinty character of the grapes.
Today there are 3 Denominacien de Origins have been designated for Txakoli:
Getaria (close to San Sebastien. You will see the wines being poured in Pintxo bars by sommeliers who have a special pouring style. Usually poured from a height into a tumbler to release the fizz and also to let out the aromas of the wine)
Biscay – In the north west of the Spain along the coastal frontier
Alava– Further south and inland, part of Rioja Alava (which is the smallest of the three Dos with under 5 ha of grapes planted for Txakoli)
Some of the Txakoli wines worth trying are:
Rezabel Arri, Txakoli (Humble Grape) – £18-£19
Ameztoi Txakoli (Highbury Vintners)- £15.50
Zudugarai Txakoli (Basco fine foods) – £12
Maetierra Txakoli (Hennings Wine) – £13
Food Pairing: Use as aperitif. Or with summer salads, grilled fish, Thai fish cakes, oily fish, anchovies, marinated prawns, pesto pasta.
If you are looking to add to your potential summer wine cellar list, don’t forget this alternative varietal which is making a come back. With improving quality and precision in expression, Txakoli is finding its way back into Central London Restaurant Wine lists this summer. Adam Mitchoki, Head Sommelier of The Glass house adds, “Summer will bring in demand for refreshing wines and more and more customers want to try something different from the usual, so Txakoli is a great alternative variety.” James Fryer of Michelin rated Portland comments, “It may be a tough name to pronounce. Some of our repeat customers just point it on the list but they remember the wine which is a great deal! So we expect the repeat demand for this wine to be high this season.” Nigel Lister, Consultant Sommelier also points, “The newer styles of Txakoli are textured with good mid palate weight. This along with its distinct, racy acidity makes it versatile to pair with summer foods.”
Summer: A brilliant excuse to join the Txakoli wave!