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Txakolina Wines

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About Txakolina Wines


Hondarrabi Zuri grapes

Txakolina is an exception to the way this site is organized, which is normally by grape type; we considered various ways to address the topic, but amalgamating it all under this one umbrella seemed the most satisfactory (or, to be honest, least unsatisfactory).

Hondarrabi Beltza grapes

The difficulty arises from Txakolina being a rather distinctive wine type, but one that can be made of any or several of a collection of unrelated grape types. What Txakolina wines—which can be white (nowadays the most common), rosé, or red (formerly the regional norm)—have in common is a distinctively high acidity, fairly low alcohol content, light body, moderate to pronounced pétillance (effervescence), decided minerality, and (usually) strong flavors. It is a type quite specific to its origins in Basque country, though today there is also a very small amount produced in Chile.

Map showing the Basque region of Spain

The nomenclature associated with Txakolina wines can get complex, and touchy: the latter because there are strong feelings about the differences between native Basque renditions of terms and the Spanish renditions of those terms (that applies to far more than just wines, and derives from the centuries-long friction between the Basque community and the government of Spain, which at times has sought to erode native Basque traditions and language). And that isn't all: even in the laws regulating the three DO (Denominación de Origen) Txakolina regions, the name of the most notable wine grape is spelled (all in Basque, mind) in three different ways. We will try to cut across most of this needless complexity and address the wines themselves, but will try to use the varietal-name spellings appropriate to the DO in which that type dominates.

(Those wanting to look further into these topics are referred to these useful and interesting web pages: Warren Edwardes' "Wine Spice"; Fringe Wines' write-up on Hondarrabi Zuri; and Wikipedia's article on Basques.)

Note also that Txokalina itself is often rendered instead as just "Txakoli". (Don't ask.)

First, what are the wines that can go into a Txakolina? The foremost these days is a white grape that DNA evidence says is identical to the Courbu Blance grape of France; note that that is not the same grape as the more famed Petit Courbu of Gascony, but it is said that wines from the Courbu Blanc are quite similar to those from Petit Courbu. The Basque version is called by slightly differing names in each of the three Txakolina DOs; it is variously "Hondarrabi Zuri" (in the Getariako Txakolina DO), "Hondarribi Zuri" (in the de Álava Txakolina DO), and "Ondarrabi Zuri" in the Bizkaiko Txakolina DO). And just to ice the cake, Zuri is also often spelled as "Zurri" (or even sometimes "Zuria"). Many online sources do not use these various forms in accordance with their true provenance, so you may expect to find any spelling whatever in an article on Txakolina wines.

The wines from this grape are described as pale yellow with aromas of citrus fruit, ripe fruit, herbs, and flowers. Txakolina wines that are 100% Hondarrabi Zuri can readily be found, as well as blends starring the type. Note that though the grape is usually styled as just presented, technically it is "Hondarrabi Zuri Zalla"; the Petit Courbu grape is, in Basque nomenclature, "Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia". Taking notes?

Another important grape type, and the only one that seems to be unique to the Basque region, is the red-wine grape Hondarrabi Beltza (aka Ondarrabi Beltza). Despite the name similarities, this grape is quite unrelated to the white grape Hondarribi Zuri. The variously spelled Hondarrabi/Ondarrabi is a jumbling of the name of a small town in the region, Fuenterrabia (in Basque, "Hondarribia", which means "sand ford") on the Bidasoa River which is very near the border between Spain and France. And Zuri is just Basque for "white", while Beltza is Basque for "black". See? Not so arcane after all. At any rate, Hondarrabi Beltza makes all the red Txakolina, is the informing grape in rosé (rosado) Txakolina wines, and can even be found in small amounts in some white Txakolina wines. Like the other grapes used in Txakolina wines, it is marked by assertive acidity. Its flavor tends markedly toward strawberry and perhaps even more raspberry (well suiting it for rosadas).

In sum, the various grape types one may find in a Txakolina include:

  • Hondarrabi Zuri {Zalla} (Courbu Blanc)

  • Hondarrabi Beltza (unique)

  • Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia (Petit Courbu)

  • Izkiriota (Gros Manseng)

  • Izkiriota Ttipia (Petit Manseng)

  • Txori Mahatsa (Sauvignon Blanc)

  • Mune Mahatsa (Folle Blanche)

Possibly you are not yet confused enough. So, let us present the "authorized" wine-grape data for Txakolina wines for each of the three defined DOs (with links to the source pages):

  • DO Getariako Txakolina:
    • Hondarrabi Zuri (Courbu Blanc), 95% of vine plantings
    • Hondarrabi Beltza, 5% of vine plantings

  • DO Bizkaiko (Biscay) Txakolina:
    • whites (use "mainly" the first two grapes below):
      • Ondarrabi Zuri (Courbu Blanc)
      • Ondarrabi Zuri Zerratia (Petit Courbu)
      • unspecified others
    • rosés:
      • Ondarrabi Beltza, 50% minimum
      • unspecified others, up to 50%
    • reds:
      • Ondarrabi Beltza (100%)

  • DO de Álava Txakolina (all white wines; the smallest DO in Europe):
    • Hondarrabi Zuri (Courbu Blanc), 70%
    • Izkiriota (Gros Manseng) 20%
    • Izkiriota Ttipia (Petit Manseng) 5%
    • Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia (Petit Courbu), 5%

Broadly speaking, the takeaway from all this is that Txakolina is a very interesting and usually delightful class of wines, good on their own or with food. Many sites, even the official ones, tend to minimize the class, referring to them as "simple", apéritif wines, or "summer wines", but the best of them have more than enough character to be taken seriously, and to go with foods of all sorts.

Pouring Txakolina Porrons

By law (meaning some makers might be cheating), Txakolina is never artificially carbonated: the residual carbon dioxide gas from fermentation is simply retained in the bottling. Some few Txakolina wines are made as still wines, but most deliberately preserve the effervescent quality.

Factoid: Txakolina wines are served, in what purports to be an old ritual form, by being poured into the glass from a substantial height, from a foot or so up to four feet or thereabouts (depending on the server's sense of showmanship); a special bottle (a porron) is often used. The process supposedly augments the pétillance of the wine (though it seems to us that it would also augment spillage and waste).

Despite the showmanship, one writer dryly notes that "If you visit the vineyards there, vintners will show how the Basques drink the popular wine, pouring it from a height into flat-bottomed tumblers. This aerates the wine and gives it the slightest prickly fizz, making it even more refreshing. The key is to pour it from 10 to 12 inches above the glass, not more, so you get a little bit of foam, but not too much." Or as a retailer puts it, "This has more to do with aerating very rustic, reduced wine served off lees direct from casks behind the bar, and has little relevance to filtered, bottled wines."

One last note: it surpasses understanding why so many wine writers whine (however playfully) about the supposed impossibility of ever pronouncing the Basque wine names. Most of the "problem" dissipates when once one grasps the simple fact that "x" is used to represent the sound "ch" as pronounced in English "cheer". The occasional use of a "t" before it is almost immaterial: the difference between "cha" and "tcha", if there is any such difference. There: wasn't that easy?

Some Descriptions of Txakolina Wines

  • Wikipedia

    "[A] family of slightly sparkling, very dry wines with high acidity and low alcohol content produced in the Spanish provinces of the Basque Country, Cantabria and northern Burgos. . . They are normally served as aperitifs and drunk within one year of bottling as they cannot be stored for longer. The most common variety, white, has a pale green colour, but there are red and rosé varieties."

  • "The fresh, lightly fizzy wine made in the Getaria region of northern Spain — the appellation is Getariako Txakolina — is the most familiar expression, but other Txakolinas are made as well, all worth exploring. In the neighboring appellation of Bizkaiko Txakolina, centered on Bilbao, the wines are less fizzy and a bit fuller and rounder. Bizkaiko Txakolina has many variations, even a little bit of delicious red . . . A third, tiny appellation, Arabako Txakolina, was established in 2003 in the inland region around Álava. . . [T]he grapes are hand-harvested and delivered to the winery, where they are immediately chilled down nearly to freezing and blanketed with nitrogen, an inert gas that prevents oxidation, a process that preserves freshness, juiciness and tangy acidity. The wines are then fermented with native yeasts in steel tanks, also kept cold and blanketed to capture carbon dioxide, which accounts for the fizziness. The carbonation is entirely natural, though it is widely suspected that less scrupulous Txakolina producers illegally inject their wines with carbon dioxide. "

  • Serious Eats

    "In general Txakoli is clean, high in acid, and has a great deal of minerality and salinity, making it perfectly refreshing to sip with seafood, cured meats, and hard cheeses like the Basque-made sheep's milk cheese idiazabal. It's a knockout with fried snacks as well, and since it's low in alcohol, this wine is ideal for sipping all afternoon (and all night) over plate after plate of tapas. "

  • Saveur

    "Txakolí is typically light-colored, with a slightly green tinge and tiny little bubbles that stream to the top of the glass. Its flavor holds a slightly herbaceous and citric quality that I find exceptionally refreshing among white summer wines. The indigenous Spanish grapes Hondarribi Zuria and Hondarribi Beltza are the main varieties, giving Txakolí its particularly refreshing acidity and kick. There is a slight variety in styles depending on where in the Txakolina region the wine comes from (central wines are rounder; coastal wines are zestier), but they are all essentially refreshing bottles that pair well with most foods."

  • wine-pages

    "That means fresh, sometimes even tart whites, often bottled with a little spritz, and much rarer but similarly lean reds. . . The wines still retain that green apple and lemon snap, and often still a little CO2. They are served locally in chunky tumblers just as they always were, but quality has risen steeply."

  • Wine Searcher

    "This wine is straightforward and uncomplicated. It has a refreshing style with fruit-dominated characters, and can have a slight sparkle as well as high acidity."

  • Wine for Normal People

    "Color: Almost clear and spritzy with small bubbles because they ferment the wine under really cold temperatures and wind up with a blanket of carbon dioxide over it that makes it fizzy. Smell: Fresh, like flowers, unripe peaches, and light apple. It smelled like a waterfall and then had a spicy warm rock smell to it too (if you’ve been hiking, imagine sitting on a rock face in the sun — that spicy rock smell is what this was like). Taste: Like sucking on a salted lemon. It was very tart with high acid and it tasted like lemon salt water. The wine was spritzy and reminded me of a more tart version of Vinho Verde."

  • S. Irene Virbila, L.A. Times

    "Die-hard red wine drinkers, though, are often at a disadvantage [in the summer], casting around for something — anything — to slake their thirst. If anyone's asking, I might steer them toward Spain and a crisp, bone-dry, slightly saline Txakoli (a.k.a. Txakolina) from the Basque country on the northern coast of Spain. And since Txakoli is generally low in alcohol, it's the perfect summer wine."

  • Food Republic

    "The wines have been characterized as the ideal summer sippers, but are also perfect for the colder months and holiday time. Gentle effervescence suggests the celebratory vibe of bubbly, low alcohol means you can sip throughout the length of a party without getting sloppy and razor-sharp acidity is a great pairing for a good many finger foods, from hard cheeses to raw oysters to salty, deep-fried bites. I keep calling the wines “fizzy” because this is the style I like best: dry, mineral to the point of being nearly salty, zesty and laced with tiny, fleeting bubbles (they disappear if you let your txakoli sit out too long – which is why small, frequent pours is how this wine should be served). This fizzy, saline, high-acidity style is best associated with Getaria, the smallest subregion of txakoli-producing Basque Country. The other two regions, Bizkaia and Alava, make a slightly lusher, rounder txakoli. A few wineries even make red txakoli."

  • CataVino

    "At their best these wines can be as scintillating, refreshing and bracing as a walk along the seashore. They are light-bodied, have high acidity and tend to be light in alcohol, around 10.5%-11%, with green apple characters and even a trace of a salty tang and a slight spritz that makes them wonderful as an aperitif or with a salad, seafood and virtually any alfresco meal including, traditionally olives and anchovies."

Some Txakolinas to Try

(About this list.)

Now that Txakolina wines are suddenly fashionable in the U.S., prices have elevated correspondingly: these are no longer "cheap" wines, though they are still very reasonable in an absolute sense. We repeat that the frequent dismissive descriptions of these wines as "simple" does them an injustice: not a few are as "complex" as many substantially more "respected" wine types, and are certainly as pleasing.

The Txakolina market nowadays is mostly white, but we have included a readily available rosé and a red, each of which is worth trying. But, from the literature, it looks like you are not likely to go far wrong with any Txakolina you might find, so don't hesitate to experiment.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Ulacia Getariako Txakolina, $14 - $23.
    (White: Hondarrabi Zuri, 85%; Hondarrabi Beltza, 15%.)
         ($16.34 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    With lime, citrus and other linear aromas, this is nothing if not fresh. The palate is scouring and spritzy, and swishing it across the tongue will create a sudsy mouthfeel. Amid that there are tangy lime and pear flavors, and then a cleansing finish. 85 points.

    This wine is bone dry with a very gentle fizz and sharp-but-balanced acidity. It has flavors of grapefruit and pineapple, and smells like a fresh spring rose.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (2012), 88 points.
    Although there is a slight reduction on the nose of the 2011 Getariako Txacolina (a blend of two indigenous varieties, Ondarrabi Zuri and Ondarrabi Beltza), a few swirls allow the succinct earthy, smoky aromas to lift from the glass. There is a lovely spritz in the mouth: crisp acidity that follows through with impressive weight towards the finish, then cooking apple and a little quince on the aftertaste.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (2011), 88 points.
    The 2010 Getariako Txakolina displays a bit of fizz from captured CO2 along with a hint of sea salt, mineral, white peach, and melon. Vibrant on the palate, it cries out for oysters on the half-shell. Drink it over the next 12-18 months. Ulacia’s Txakoli offering has been consistently good over the last several years.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (2010), 88 points.
    The 2009 Ulacia is a fine example of Txakoli. Upon removing the cork, an enticing nose of lemon-lime, sea-salt, and mineral jumps from the bottle under pressure from the captured carbon dioxide. Crisp, refreshing, and concentrated (the 2009 vintage seems to provide these wines an extra lift).

    ♣ Wine Spectator (15 December 2013), 87 points.
    A lively spritz carries fresh, briny notes through this light-bodied white. Features citrusy acidity and a clean, lean profile.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (2014), 90 points.
    Bright straw. Lively, precise scents of fresh citrus and orchard fruits, along with suggestions of quinine and chalky minerals. Taut and nervy, with bitter lime pith and honeysuckle flavors putting on weight with air. Finishes dry and nervy, with lingering floral character.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (2011), 90 points.
    Bright straw. Citrus zest, pear skin and white pepper on the high-pitched nose. Dry and tightly wound, offering tangy lemon and grapefruit flavors that show a refreshingly bitter quality. Textbook Txakoli, with strong finishing bite and spicy persistence.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (2010), 88 points.
    Extremely pale straw. Dusty lime and lemon aromas are complemented by honeysuckle and quinine. Dry, penetrating and pure but lacks a bit of mid-palate depth. This clean, precise wine finishes with a touch of bitterness and spicy bite.

    The nose was floral, smelling of blossom, with some grapey notes. It was youthful, but not particularly intense. The palate was of lime, and very zesty as a result of both good acidity and the bubbles which were more prominent that what I’ve read online would have led me to expect. The body was light, and there was almost a hint of sweetness, but I don’t think it was down to residual sugar – more likely just the freshness. This is a very good wine for what it is – young and meant to be drunk you, refreshing, and inexpensive despite having come to the far side of the world from a small producer. I’ve seen the term “fun” used to describe Txakolina wines and I think this wine absolutely hits the mark. It’s also worth noting this was a 2010 and most sources recommend drinking the wine within a year, so it was almost certainly better still this time last year.

    Bright pale yellow in color, the vivacious nose was spicy, yeasty, and full of citrus and minerals. There was also a hint of canned asparagus, which dissipated with air. Pétillant, light-to-medium bodied, lots of snappy acidity, chalky, with very nice and precise flavors of minerals, green apples, and grapefruit, the Ulacia finishes very well, with lip-smacking acidity. The wine did suggest a light, bright, fizzy Sauvignon Blanc, although the chalkiness in the flavors was distinctive. [Very Good]

    Pale straw. Nose of peach, wet stones and sweet floral aromas. The big-mouth glass made smelling this a joy. Great mouthfeel with some light effervessence, racy acidity and the tiniest amount of saltiness on the finish. This was complemented by a great balance of citrus tree fruit and stone fruits.

    ...tart, apply, slightly fizzy...

    Apple- and citrus-scented.

  • Arabako Xarmant Txakolina, $14 - $23.
    (White: Hondarribi Zuri (Courbu Blanc), 70%; 30% a blend of Izkiriota (Gros Manseng), Izkiriota Ttippia (Petit Manseng), and Hondarribi Zuri Zerratia (Petit Courbu), exact proportions unspecified by maker.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Honey drops on green apples and wet stones make for an appealing aroma, but the flavor is all green apple and spice. This has lower acidity than normal racy Txakolis, but it's still a tart drink.

    If you like Albariño you’ll like this wine. Light, upbeat and yes, charming, this is a wonderful warm weather wine. Xarmant Txakolina has an aromatic and floral nose, with crisp flavors of pink grapefruit, lime and apple. The finish is dry and refreshing with just a hint of spice.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (Sept/Oct 2009), 91 points
    Light yellow. Impressively complex bouquet of grapefruit, lemon thyme, tarragon and white pepper. Dry, racy and sharply focused, offering lively citrus and green apple flavors and a strong herbal note. Finishes with impressive clarity and mineral thrust, with the herbal element recurring.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (April 2010), 89 points
    From a vintage described by the importer as 'nervy, minerally', this light straw-colored wine gives up aromas of green apple, mineral, and citrus. Crisp on the palate with a good core of fruit, this balanced, lengthy effort will pair beautifully with raw bar. [sic]

    [T]his wine from the Basque country is almost glaringly bright, with green apple and lemon-lime fruit that is tart but not sour.

    This producer's flagship txakoli is pretty and balanced, dangerously drinkable.

    [A] wild and refreshing blend of citrus, mineral and spice elements, along with a strong floral quality.

    Lovely, light and delicious.

    Arabako Txakolina, founded in 2003, is the youngest Txakoli DO. Nestled in Spain's Basque Country, it is farther from the sea than any other Txakoli DO. The entire DO encompasses a total of 60 Hectares and has only one producer, a cooperative between 12 growers that pool their resources together to create Xarmant Txakoli. Xarmant, which means Charming in French, though spelled in the Basque way (they sure love them 'x's) is located at a higher elevation and abuts the Castilla y Leon region in Northern Spain. This climate is a great mixture of continental and oceanic influences that create ripe yet nuanced fruit that is distinctively different from the Txakolina DOC. This stainless steel fermented wine has a light crisp effervescence with lemon lime zest, a nervy acidity with a slight saline finish.

  • Uriondo Bizkaiko Txakolina, $16 - $21.
    (White: Mune Mahatsa [Folle Blanche], 70%; Txori Mahatsa [Sauvignon Blanc], 30%.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    While it still has the briny character that’s a signature to Txakolina, its peach and pear fruit is more prominent than the average and, in spite of the usage of wood, it still has a delightfully crisp finish.

    This pure and vibrant Txakolina was made from 70% Mune Mahatsa [Folle Blanche] and 30% Txori Mahatsa [Sauvignon Blanc] and fermented in stainless tanks that intensified the bright crispness and citrus flavors. The palate is tangy with lots of green apple and lime with vigorous acidity and zest, plus hints of mineral, chalk and a sense of the ocean. With 11.5% alcohol and light body this white is perfect for oysters and hot days, is is one of the most vivid and refreshing whites out there! I’ve always had a soft spot for Txakolina whites and this one brought that bias back in a big way. 92 points.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (1 September 2010), 91 points.
    Green-tinged yellow. Citrus zest, beeswax and orchard fruit aromas are complemented by dusty minerals and quinine. Racy, sharply focused pear and quince flavors pick up a refreshing lime zest quality with air. Brisk and very pure, finishing with excellent lift and mineral-driven thrust.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (June 2011), 89 points.
    The 2010 Urionda Txakolina is a blend of Hondarribi Zuri, Mune Muhatsa, and Txori Mahatsa, the latter portion barrel fermented in American oak. Baking spices, mineral, and citrus lead to a crisp, firm, savory Txakoli.

    Yielding aromas of wet slate, white flowers, lime pith and chalk, Uriondo carries a light spritz and bright acidity that’s driven by lime pulp and stone fruit, leading to a refreshingly tart finish.

    The delicate green apple aromas, intense mineral flavors, and searing acidity in this wine are reminiscent of Riesling, but don't look for that grape's complexity in this refreshing wine.

    Ameztoi's vines are in the Getariako appellation near the town of San Sebastian. Uriondo is a newer producer whose vines are in the neighboring appellation of Bizkaiko. . . There are differences in terroir here about which I am ignorant, but the differences between these wines was rather stark. The aromas and flavors of the Uriondo veered towards lemon and cream and the texture was fuller. The wine was fine, although not special, and I thought the Ameztoi towers above it in quality.

    A mellow, thoughtful wine.

    The wine, a Spanish Basque white, “Uriondo Bizkaiko Txakolina” . . . was pale gold with a really delicate nose. It was tart, thin apples on the mid-palate, and its bright acid was perfect without being too sharp with this food course.

  • Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina, $16 - $25.
    (White: Hondarrabi Zuri, 75%; Hondarribi Beltza, 25%.)
         ($23.24 at Saratoga Wine Exchange).

    Some quotations and facts:

    This is my favorite of all the txakolis I tried. The fizz, fresh citrus and melon flavors, and a salty minerality get your mouth watering.

    This, although Spanish, is essentially a ‘green wine’, vinho verde in Portuguese, in which the grapes are picked when still high in malic acid . . . But it absolutely has to be a good example. If there’s a shortage of fruit, the wine is like paint stripper. In my experience the best producer is Txomin Etxaniz (another good friend of mine) who, despite labels which suggest they belong to another decade, manage to squeeze an admirable amount of flavour and even a suggestion of floral aroma into their bottles of wine which are, mercifully, just 10.5 per cent alcohol.

    The big production wine for this estate has a lovely yeasty, herby nose, very delicate with a light lemony flavour. On the palate the faintest sparkle, but a really fresh, with lots of lemony fruit and real vibrant punch. Light and tangy, with those faint herbal flavours adding a lovely complexity. 89 points.

    The 2012 Txomin Extaniz white version shows a dramatically different styled wine, but equally unique inside its Txakolina peer group. While the rosé aromatics are whispy, citric, and clean the white version shows off richness and viscosity at first sniff. Pineapple and peach aromas and flavors add to equally bracing citric acidity, but the wine has a rich malic character that I had not experienced in Txakolina before. It loses the lightness and simple fun of Txakoli, and exchanges it for more serious wine characteristics. It’s a lovely wine in itself, but the rosé stands on a taller global pedestal and is completely remarkable.

    The 2009 Txomin Etxaniz is fresh and tangy, with a slightly chalky mineral and lemon flavor. It goes beautifully with the ubiquitous Basque snacks of anchovies and preserved tuna. . . The crisp, refreshing archetype.

    [T]his is one cool wine: fragrant nose that's mineral, citrus and some sweet white flower, and chalky minerals on the palate with fruity lemon juice up front and a dry orange zest finish. Lots of body, but it's not a heavy wine. Another thing we enjoyed was that it kept changing--every glass seemed a little different from the last.

    This is an animated, slightly fizzy wine with green apple, citrus and mineral aromas and flavors and vivid acidity. It evokes a sense of salty sea breezes and sandy beaches.

    The freshest, crunchiest wine here. Serve it cold, poured from a height into a tumbler or wine glass. A vivid shot of the nervy north coast, made for the freshest of shellfish. 88 points.

    I was happy to finally get to taste what top txakoli is all about. It is, I have to say, very pleasant and very well made. Bright acidity, lovely lemon-citrus flavors, refreshing, bone-dry, with a touch of yeast and a neat, pleasant mineral backbone. The fizz is best revealed when you pour the wine from a little high above your glass: the wine then fills with the tiniest of bubbles, and leaves a white ring on its edge, showing the persistence of the carbonic gas in the txakoli. .  There is a fashion surrounding txakoli, right now, in the United States, and I’m very happy for the producers who are getting a very good price for their wine. But at over 25$, txakoli will be a very occasional buy, for me, even the excellent Txomin Etxaniz, which was impeccable and precise, and pretty much perfect, for what it is supposed to be. Under 20$, you’d probably see me buying by the case.

  • Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina, $16 - $26.
    (White: Hondarribi Zuri, 90%; Hondarribi Beltza, 10%.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Color: Almost clear and spritzy with small bubbles because they ferment the wine under really cold temperatures and wind up with a blanket of carbon dioxide over it that makes it fizzy. Smell: Fresh, like flowers, unripe peaches, and light apple. It smelled like a waterfall and then had a spicy warm rock smell to it too (if you’ve been hiking, imagine sitting on a rock face in the sun — that spicy rock smell is what this was like). Taste: Like sucking on a salted lemon. It was very tart with high acid and it tasted like lemon salt water. The wine was spritzy and reminded me of a more tart version of Vinho Verde. I really liked how fresh the wine tasted and the saltiness would have gone perfectly with fish or salty nuts like cashews or Marcona almonds. I completely respect that the Basques have it with every meal — from fish to heavy meat to vegetables — but for me it’s not a wine for everyday. That said, for fish or seafood, I’ll choose it any day. It’s a great alternative to Albariño, a light style Verdejo, and Vinho Verde.

    A seventh-generation producer, Ameztoi is one of the best-known producers in the region, and for good reason. The wines are consistently good and never veer away from what people have come to expect from Txakolina. With bracing acidity, lemon-lime and a green apple tartness, this is the wine to track down if you have never tried Txakolina before.

    His Getariako Txakolina is a blend of Hondarribi Zurri, a white grape, and Hondarribi Beltza, a red varietal. Soft-pressed and fermented in stainless steel tanks, the bouquet is reminiscent of green apples and fresh limes dusted with sea salt and finished with mint. A light, crisp palate and a slight, natural carbonation make this the perfect wine for seafood dishes.

    Light straw yellow in color with noticeable petillance. At first sniff, this wine exudes heavy duty 'mineral water' minerality. As it warms, scents of green apple, fresh pear and citrus evolve. In the mouth, this wine is light-bodied and crisp. It offers simple flavors paired to a surprisingly complex mouthfeel. Ameztoi begins as a bracing, dry wine, but finishes with a rich, creamy texture. Both tasty and interesting.

    Pale yellow color with tiny bubbles, clear hue, pretty floral and apple aromas and tastes, mineral notes, slight fizziness, great acidity, short finish.

    [T]his light, crisp wine is fermented in stainless steel and bottled with residual carbonic gas that gives the wine its signature natural spritz and effervescence. It’s zesty, fresh and eminently quaffable with bright, briny sea salt notes combined with limey fruits.

    The Ameztoi Getariako is clean, crisp, super dry and minerally, with some notes of tart Granny Smith apples, citrus peel.

    The top white vote-getter is the 2012 Getariako Txakolina from Ameztoi in Gipuzkos, Spain. . . This low alcohol white is super intense with crisp acidity and pure lime. We thought the thirst-quenching, spritzy quality to this wine would match best with lightly grilled fresh oysters and it would cut through fatty charred red meats.

  • Ameztoi Rubentis Getariako Txakolina, $16 - $31.
    (rosé: Hondarribi Beltza, 50%; Hondarribi Zurri, 50%.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Pale rose petal/peach in color the Rubentis is bright and expressive with racy acidity and minerality with hints of raspberry, rose petals, and green apple which lingers on the finish. Zesty and refreshing the wine is perfect for pairing with seafood, spicy dishes, or when relaxing after a long day of work.

    I discovered this beautiful pale pink wine with the 2009 vintage and it’s been one of my go-to summer rosés. This zippy Spanish wine is super dry with a great level of acidity. Strawberry, floral and slate nose. Light fizz on the front of the sip that dissipates into a dry finish. Bright, ripe strawberry flavors make this a great wine for summer sipping or to match up with foods that are a little fatty like salmon or event lamb chops.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (June 2011), 90 points
    The 2010 Ametzoi Rubentis Txakoli is light pink in color with attractive aromas of rose petal and strawberry. Crisp and surprisingly concentrated, this nicely proportioned effort will provide enjoyment over the next 12-18 months.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (July 2014), 91 points
    Light, lurid pink. Fresh red berries and white flowers on the mineral-driven nose, with a touch of orange zest adding interest. Nervy, focused and pure, offering vibrant, lightly bubbly red berry and citrus zest flavors sharpened by bright minerality. Finishes bright, crisp and long, with emphatic repeating notes of red berries and dusty minerals. A bottle of this wine always disappears quickly.

    There are, however, a few rosés that punch well above their weight. . . Its details may be complicated, but this is a delicious, fabulously distinctive rosé. Characteristic of Txakolinas, the Ameztoi Rubentis is bottled with some residual carbon dioxide, which gives it a refreshing spritz. The current vintage for the Rubentis is 2011, and it is a gem: Light in color and texture, it has terrific strawberry and citrus flavors, brisk acidity, and a pleasant whiff of brininess (the Ameztoi vineyard is set on a hillside overlooking the Atlantic, just minutes from the city of San Sebastian, Spain's culinary Mecca). With just 10.5 percent alcohol, the Rubentis is a proper thirst-quencher that also happens to pack all the complexity of a top-notch white or red. Northern Spain is serving up lots of compelling wines these days, and the Rubentis is a particularly sublime case in point – a wine that will charm even the most hardened rosé skeptic.

    This Getariako region Ameztoi has a high level of acid and minerality, but it's rounded out by its red fruit characteristics. This is a lovely sipping wine with cheese or a savory watermelon salad on a day when it's just too hot to turn the oven on.

    This rosé from the Spanish Basque country is something different. Grown on the hillside vineyards above the small fishing town of Getaria, the Ameztoi "Rubentis" is essentially a pink Txakolina made with a blend of white and red grapes. Ever so slightly pétillant, it has the minerality and a bright citrusy quality that makes it ideal with spicy foods. Open a bottle with fiery Thai or Indian dishes. I love it with ceviche, anything with anchovies or sardines. It's also great with tapas, paella and grilled fish. And perfect for that moment when you're kicking back before dinner.

    A lovely, lightly fizzy, low-alcohol pink, this wine is practically a Basque summer in a bottle. Its color is a pale blush, created from a small amount of white grapes blended into the red. Its flavors are light and hint at ripe berries with refreshing citrus.

    By adjusting the blend to increase the amount of Hondarribi Beltza, the red txakolina grape, Ameztoi has made this rosé txakolina that retains all the freshness of traditional white txakolina. The wine has a beautiful pink hue with tutti-frutti aromatics with notes of strawberry and raspberry. On the palate, candied red fruit with citrus and a touch of quinine. Tart and slightly sour acidity, light bodied and totally refreshing.

    Snappy and fun, this is a wonderfully food friendly Rosé. With its modest alcohol content it will vanish before you realize it.

  • Ameztoi Stimatum Getariako Txakolina, $15 - $27.
    (red; still, not pétillant; Hondarrabi Beltza, 100%.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Deeply saturated but bright blackish magenta/purple color, with pinkish/purple froth at the rim. The nose opens with an intense briny minerality followed by bold but still quite elegant aromas of boysenberry, raspberry, watermelon candy, red wildflowers, dried herbs, and green pepper. The palate is medium-light with a slight spritziness, a finely “grainy” texture, wiry tannins and spunky acidity and sapid flavors of blood orange, black cherry, chalky earth, mocha, and wild honey. Big bittersweet finish.

    Although light-to-medium weight on the palate, the red version has plenty of structure from the acidity and robust tannins that give this a surprisingly long finish. The nose is bizarre—raspberry in the background with very prominent pear notes which I have never experienced in a red wine. The palate is sour raspberry with very dry licorice notes. Juicy and very fruity from at least partial carbonic maceration, yet nevertheless tart and structured, the overall impression is playful but rustic. It will stand up to most meat dishes, full flavor cheeses and fried fish. I found this wine to be a bit of a challenge—fruity but exceedingly dry, cheerful and zesty but harsh—like your favorite schizophrenic.

    Fun wine with a bizarre personality. Light, refreshing red with bright acidity and intentional effervescence. A little yeasty although very juicy dark berries take care to even out the balance. This is great picnic or afternoon wine for when you’re sick of whites, rosés or light reds and want something with fruit but finishes super dry.

    It’s all about blackberry and boysenberry fruit with plenty of crispness and just a little bit of grip. Chill briefly. My guests finished it long before the paella had come off the fire.

    Hondarribi Beltza is a genetic relative to cabernet franc and has similar blueberry, raspberry, and violet characteristics. Like white Txakolina, this red version has a little bit of spritz, which really pushes out the aromatics and gives it a nice lift.

    This is a red wine made from the Hondaribbi Beltza grape native to the Basque region of Spain; it's a super refreshing red wine full of juicy red fruits and bright acidity and it pairs with a wide array of our food items.

    [T]his slightly fizzy red wine is one of the few low alcohol reds that is perfect for sipping on during the day. It has fruity notes but finishes completely dry and almost looks like a dark rose in color.

For a Splurge

Though Txakolina wines, having become a fad, are no longer really inexpensive, it is still hard to find many that are any more than a tad over of our nominal price limit of $20. Probably the likeliest candidate for a Txakolina "splurge" would be the 100% Hondarrabi Beltza Bizkaiko red from Gorrondona, available for from $25 to $34 or so. Recall that Hondarrabi Beltza is the only really uniquely Basque grape type; know also that reviewers regularly compare its wines to better Cabernet Francs from the Loire Valley of France.

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