In the heart of the coastal town of Getaria, not far from San Sebastián, you’ll find yourself in the middle of Spain’s most unusual wine region: the Denomination of Origin Getariako Txakolina. Txakoli (pronounced “chock-oh-lee”) wine is produced here and it is the pride of Basque Country. Slightly fizzy, it’s a dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content that is the perfect pairing to the area’s plentiful seafood. We paid a visit to the most renowned Txakoli producer, Txomin Etxaniz, with Iberian Wine Tours, to see firsthand how these wines are made and the history behind them.
Driving up to the green rolling hills from Getaria, we were immediately struck by the beauty of the region. It is both unexpected and amazing with its steep undulating rows of vines that seem to drop off into the Bay of Biscay. Here the rainfall is about 200 times that of a typical wine region so the vines are trained on high pergolas to help with ventilation, preventing any mildew that might thrive in this wet, cool environment.
Txomin Etxaniz sits on the edge of a ridge surrounded by its 35 hectares of sloped vineyards. They grow two types of grapes, the large majority being Hondarrabi Zuri (90%) along with Hondarrabi Beltza (10%) which is used to make their Txakoli Rosé. The Txueka Etxaniz family runs the winery and vineyards, both producing and selling their Txakoli wine. Mikel Txueka, took us for a tour that started in the vineyard and ended in their tasting room sampling their finished product along with the family’s home cured anchovies.
As Mikel explains, Txakoli wine dates back to the 16th century where it was historically made in the local farmhouses and used for trade. With a history like that, one would expect a winery of more modest operations. Instead, Txomin Etxaniz is ultra-modern featuring equipment that is both immaculate and impressive. “We harvest our grapes at the end of September then bring them into the winery to be pressed and fermented in our temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks for maybe two weeks to a month.”
They have adopted the méthode Champenoise where the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottles to the create the bubbles. As we tour the winery, we pass the riddling room where a number of bottles sit tilting into the riddling racks. Here the lees are collected in the neck of the bottle before disgorgement.
As we get to the tasting room, a long wooden table is set up with tuna, baguette and anchovies. Along one end is a row of cider glasses. Txakoli wines are meant to be drank young and Mikel opens a bottle of their 2017, holds it high above the glass pouring it in the traditional way. Beyond just for the sake of presentation, it also has a purpose—to keep the bubbles intact. Mikel explains however, that if the bottle is held too high, it can have the opposite effect, “You must pour it from about 8 inches high. If you pour it from a higher place, you can actually lose the bubbles.”
There is no better demonstration of this than in nearby San Sebastián where a night spent exploring the local pintxos (tapas) bars was one of the highlights of our trip to the region. Every local bar whether traditional or modern, line up the glasses on the bar and pour from an implausible height, likely a bit too high based on Mikel’s advice, but certainly entertaining to say the least.
Despite our limited experience with these wines, we could immediately tell that Txomin Etxaniz is making top quality Txakoli and it was a wonderful introduction to a wine that is relatively unknown. However, we expect that to change in the very near future as Txakoli wines are gaining rapidly in popularity, particularly in North America, for a number of reasons. They are light and refreshing and are extremely good value. The rise in popularity can also be attributed to the general rise in popularity of Rosé wines and other low-alcohol summer sippers. This is one trend we’re happy to see continue, particularly as the weather warms up and we prepare to spend as much time as possible on our deck.
Clear pink in colour, this wine has a light strawberry nose with hints of earth. On the palate there is a lovely delicacy that comes from its medium light body. Flavours of strawberry, rhubarb and citrus are punctuated with the medium high acidity. There is just a light spritz on the wine, not a full sparkle, just enough fizz to keep the acidity in check. Very refreshing.
This wine shows a medium green/gold hue with tiny bubbles. The palate shows the lighter body style typical of this cool region. The nose shows green apple and grapefruit. Flavours of pear, honeydew and apple get support from the mineral streak. The high acidity keeps this wine very refreshing and puts a grapefruit note onto the finish. Very refreshing, the light fizz keeps the palate lively. Perfect drink for a hot summer day!
Tastings made by appointment:
Tel: (00 34) 943 14 07 02