I often visit Spain. It takes me only about three hours from home to get to a beautiful town of San Sebastian. I love this place! Because of its beauty and tasty pintxos with a glass of local sparkling wine. Going further to the west, along the shore of the Bay of Biscay, you get to the little-known vineyards of Getaria. For me one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Getaria –a hidden place and its sparkling treasures
Getaria is a tiny town located near the Bay of Biscay, surrounded by sea and vineyards. The land, where the vineyards are being grown, is very steep and looks like a small chain of green hills. The view of vineyards kissing the ocean makes an unforgettable impression!
What’s interesting, the vines are being trellised very high (about two meters) and create a funny ‘roof’ over the head. The hills of the vineyards are very steep and even a short walk seems to be a big challenge.
A few kilometers to the South-West towards Bilbao there are other vineyards and a nice small town of Zumaia in Gipuzkoa. You can stop there for a while in the vineyards, admire them and the ocean and let yourself enjoy the moment.
Txakoli – underrated wine from Spain
Two years ago I had no idea about what txakoli is and that it exists. Now, especially during summer, we visit Spain every 2-3 weeks and I regularly buy a few bottles of txakoli to enjoy its freshness while sitting in the garden at home.
So – what is txakoli? It’s a sparkling wine (pétillant naturel), very fresh and light with a hint of minerality (salty note), nice lime acidity, a note of citrus fruits and delicate peachy flavours with not very long but refreshing finish.
Tortilla, light cold pintxos (pinchos) with veggies or heavier, hot cooked or baked pintxos with cheese – no matter what’s on the table, pintxos is a perfect pairing. And if the plate is empty… pintxos is a great wine to enjoy on its own.
Traditionally the txakoli wine should be poured into the big glass cup (typical wine glass is not very popular) from about half meter height (professionals can do it even higher). The first impression while watching the barman pouring txakoli is a big WOW and after that everyone want to try this method with typical wine and typical glass – that doesn’t work very well.
I had a bit of practice with txakoli with better or worse effects at the beginning, but I need to admit that I prefer watching others pouring the wine for me.
Have you ever try to pour the txakoli the traditional way? :)
Txakoli is available locally, almost nothing is exported elsewhere apart from some restaurants. The reasons, in my opinion, are three: (1) production of txakoli is not big, (2) wine is made to drink fresh and young, (3)tourists drinks most of it while their visits in the North Spain and Basque Country where you can find this wine in every restaurant and local bar.
I’ve tasted already over a dozen of txakoli wines, about some of them I wrote on my blog:
- Gaintza Getariako Txakolina Rose 2013 (view the tasting note)
- Ganeta 2012 (view the tasting note)
- Izaro 2013 (view the tasting note)
- Txomin Extaniz 2014
- Gaintza 2014
Hondarrabi – family of grapes
Hondarrabi Zuri (Ondarrabi Zuri, Courbu Blanc) is a name of white grapes that produce white wines in Getaria. The wines are usually light and not complex although they are refreshing and admire for their small natural bubbles. Hondarrabi Beltza (Ondarrabi Beltza) is the other grape variety to produce very rare red txakoli wines (also difficult to find in local shops) and fresh and light roses.
Other grape varieties that might be use in the production of txakoli are: Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia (Ondarrabi Zuri Zerratia, Petit Courbu), Izkiriota (Gros Manseng), Mune Mahatsa and Txori Mahtsa. Moreover Getariako Txakolina allows Chardonnay and Riesling, while Arabako Txakolina allows Izkiriota Ttippia (Petit Manseng). Bizkaiko Txakolina allows the barrel fermantaion and adding some Folle Blanche grapes but the main grape has to be a Hondarrabi family one (Zuri for whites and Beltza for reds).
Three faces of txakolina
Getariako Txakolina (Txakoli de Guetaria, Chacolí de Getaria) DO – the appelation covers the land to the West of San Sebastian (Donostia), in Getaria, and is the most Eastern appellation of all them.
Txakoli from Getaria is a pale straw coloured wine, very fresh and full of natural bubbles. Getariako Txakolina allows the production of whites from Hondarrabi Zuri and reds from Hondarrabi Beltza; also other grape varieties are allowed there (look: Hondarrabi – family of grapes)
Arabako Txakolina (Txakoli de Alava, Chacolí de Alava) DO – is the smallest and the youngest of all three appellations that produce txakoli. It is the most Southern of all Txakolina appellations with a bit warmer climate than others. Arabako Txakolina allows to produce whites, reds and roses – all of them very fresh and fizzy.
Bizkaiko Txakolina (Txakoli de Bizkaia, Chacolí de Vizcaya) DO – it’s the largest area of txakoli production in the Basque Country with a big influence of Atlantic. Bizkaiko Txakolina produces mostly whites that are fuller and more acidic than those from Getaria with an herbal note.
Getaria and txakolina in other sources
I was very surprised when I found out that there’s almost no informaton about txakoli wines and Getaria itself.
In my favourite book, The Shotesby’s Wine Encyclopedia (T. Stevenson), there’s only few sentences of each of the Txakolina appellations and a few producers. Even if I think it’s not enough, this is the biggest source of information that I found.
In „The World Altas of Wine” (H. Johnson, J. Robinson) there are only few lines about the subject – it’s just three sentences, so I will quote them (p. 192): „Way up in the Bay of Biscay round the citiesof Bilbao and Santander are the piercing Basque whites, of, respectively, Bizkaiko Txakolina / Chacolí de Vizcaya and Getariako Txakolina / Chacolí de Guetaria (Spanish political courtesy embraces fours languages: Gallego, Basque, Catalan and mainstream Castilian). Arabako Txakolina / Chacolí de Alava is made in small quantities in the province of Araba/Alava. Remarkably like Basque wine on the other side of the French border, they are served locally in delicate glass tumblers.”
The last big source is “The Oxford Companion to Wine” (J. Robinson) in which you will find a very short description of two Txkolina appellations.
There’s no other book with info about Txakolina, Getaria and the Basque sparkling wines, at least I haven’t found anything. The only sources that were full of txakoli details were local newspapers and tourist brochures but I bought them locally ;)
I am not giving up – I will continue my research and I will write more and more about these beautiful places and txakoli wines. I believe everyone should know them and, what is the most important thing, they deserve to be known.
Simple as that: Txakoli
It’s worthwhile knowing it. It’s worthwhile to go there. It’s a must-visit place and a must-taste wine for every self-respecting wine lover and there’s no discussion about that. I’m going to Getaria next week, can’t wait to see those vineyards touching the ocean, that seems to be in a half way to heaven, full of sunshine and beauty…
Simple as that.
Do you know Getaria? Have you tasted any txakoli wines? Share your thoughts in comments below!