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Txakolina


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About Txakolina

Background

Map showing the Basque region of Spain

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).

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.

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); apparently either form will do.

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 Blanc 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:

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):

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?

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Some Descriptions of Txakolina Wines

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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 also included a red; the rosado Txakolinas are several and generally good, but we treat them with other Rosé wines, not here. 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.


White Txakolis
Doniene Gorrondona Bizkaiko Txakoli
(Sorting the Txakoli wines from this maker can be confusing. “Gorrondona” is their entry-level txakoli; “Doniene” is a step up from it. And they also bottle a Tinto [red] Gorrondona Txakoli. The problem is that it’s not easy to determine from the label—or from reviews—which is which, though the Tinto can usually be identified. We believe we are listing the Doniene, but as noted, the reviewers—on whose work we base these lists—are not clear on which wine they are reviewing. Caveat emptor.)
Gorrondona (white) Txakoli label
Gorrondona (white) Txakoli
Doniene Txakoli label
Doniene Txakoli
Doniene Txakoli label
Gorrondona (red) Txakoli

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
  (We believe those are both the Doniene, but the label images are confused.)
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Berroja “Berroia” Bizkaiko Txakoli

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Ameztoi Txakoli di Getaria Hondarribi Zuri Getariako Txakolina

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina
(This is their basic Txakoli, not their “Uydi Berantiarra” or Rosé or “Espumoso”.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Xarmant Arabako Txakolina

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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Red Txakolis
Ameztoi “Rubentis” Getariako Txakolina
(This is 100% Hondarrabi Beltza, but vinified as a rosé.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Ameztoi “Stimatum” Getariako Txakolina

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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For a Splurge

There are no Txakolinas better enought than those listed above to be worth a “splurge” price.

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This page was last modified on Thursday, 23 January 2020, at 12:54 pm Pacific Time.