While twenty years ago, no one knew Txakolina outside Spanish Basque Country, “where it was the go-to wine with just about anything consumed at a table,” reports Asimov, today “people all over the world have a passing familiarity with this often mildly effervescent wine, even if they don’t know how to pronounce it (chock-oh-LEE-nah).”
Except of course I struck out when I went looking for it in Ventura County and while Sue and I kept our eyes peeled for it during last week’s press trips to the El Dorado and Lodi wine regions, no luck. We were super excited to pair it with a Basque recipe for sea bass, too.
Others are more fortunate. Small groups of enthusiasts embrace wines like Txakolina, continues Asimov, “people who love wine and are curious enough to explore wines made from unfamiliar grapes or from little-known regions.”
With this month’s World Wine Travel theme hosted by Jill Barth being Basque wines, I thought it the ideal time to search out and taste this grape which Asimov raved about in his recent series of articles for his Wine School in the New York Times. But no such luck.
Asimov says for a wine such as this, one with a name that’s hard to pronounce and from an obscure region, requires “a tireless importer… willing to do the brick-by-brick work necessary to create a market.” Someone like André Tamers of De Maison Selections in Chapel Hill, N.C. who told Asimov in 2010 that the wines are “simple, they’re fresh, they’re easy, and I think that people are starved for something like that.”
In 2001 only 12,000 bottles of Txakolina were exported to the United States. In 2019, it’s almost 230,000 bottles, reports Asimov. But Basque wines haven’t yet made it into Whole Foods, Bevmo or Trader Joe’s near me in SoCal.
So I’m relying on Asimov’s expertise today until I get a chance to taste it myself. And I’m sure I’l learn more when I read the posts from others in the World Wine Travel group (scroll down for titles and links).
Grown near the Atlantic’s cold and windy Bay of Biscay as you can see from the map above, the grapes enjoy protection from disease by the breeze. Low in alcohol, which is certainly on trend, Getariako Txakolina offers “tangy acidity, and the wines are as bracing as a plunge into cold saltwater. Their flavor more closely resembles the aromas of the ocean air there, rather than any particular kind of fruit,” says Asimov.
Sound exciting? But wait there’s more: the wines are effervescent! Not quite sparkling but not exactly still, a quality which Asimov says makes them a joy to drink.
When you find one, no need to lay it down: the wines are made to be enjoyed young says Asimov. Txakolina itself is “actually a modern wine, a product mostly of the 1960s when the Basque government lavishly subsidized vineyards and wine producers in an effort to prevent citizens from abandoning the countryside for the cities.”
Txakolina producers are therefore first generation and operations tend to be high-tech however some hand-harvest and ferment with indigenous yeast. “Generally, fermentation takes place in big steel tanks that are blanketed with nitrogen, an inert gas that preserves freshness and prevents oxidation,” writes Asimov. “The nitrogen also prevents carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fermentation, from escaping, resulting in that gentle effervescence.”
What should you pair with Txakolina?
It’s a natural for aperitifs and foods from the sea especially gooseneck barnacles known as percebes, yet some say the acidity makes it work well with lamb. As much as I love lamb, I can get whelks here and I think I’ll give them a go. If and when I can acquire the wine. Asimov reports a reader as calling this “pairing percebes and Txakoli is the marriage of reason and love.” Another reader suggests when paired with “Manchego and tinned Spanish octopus, it blossomed to the occasion.”
So what will the World Wine Travel Writers find with Basque wine? Check out their results below and from the twitter chat by searching for the hashtag #worldwinetravel where we will be discussing the prompts listed below.
- Basque Country Means Pintxos and Txakolina by Jeff at Food Wine Click
- Fish Friday in the USA with a Spanish Txakolina Rosé by Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm
- Two Versions of Txakoli, Perfect Summer Wines from Susannah at Avvinare
- Pintxos and Txakoli – a celebration of Basque Country from Robin at Crushed Grape Chronicles
- Almejas en Salsa Verde (Clams in Green Sauce) + 2019 Zudugarai “Amats” Getariako Txakolina from Cam at Culinary Adventures with Camilla
- Basque Country Wines for Beginners and Great Food Pairings from Teri at Our Good Life
- Recalling Spain: Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rubentis and Shrimp from Martin at ENOFYLZ Wine Blog
- Tasty Txakolina from Basque Country calls for fish by Linda at My Full Wine Glass
- Basque’s Effervescent Txakolina #WorldWineTravel from Gwendolyn at Wine Predator
- The History of the Basque Culinary World Prize by Jill on L’Occasion
- 11:00 am ET
- Q1 Welcome to the #worldwinetravel and our Baseque virtual visit. Where are you tweeting from? Introduce yourself, share a link to your blog. Visitors too!
- 11:05 am ET
- Q2 We’re continuing our deep into Spain in 2021. What did you know about Basque Country (País Vasco in Spanish; Euskadi in Basque)prior to our event? #worldwinetravel
- 11:10am ET
- Q3 Basque Country wines are generally categorized two ways: Txakoli, the traditional Basque wine; and wine from the Rioja Alavesa DOCa. Did you sample a traditional wine or Spanish wine? #worldwinetravel
- 11:15am ET
- Q4 Tell us about the wine(s) you’re highlighting today. #worldwinetravel
- 11:20 am ET
- Q5 Txakoli is customary with seafood or pintxos, which are enjoyed in a tapas style. Did you get to try a traditional Basque pairing? #worldwinetravel
- 11:25 am ET
- Q6 Do you have any background to share on the Basque producer behind the products or travel experiences you featured? #worldwinetravel
- 11:30 am ET
- Q7 Have you visited Basque Country? Share stories and images! #worldwinetravel
- 11:35am ET
- Q8 Basque Country is an autonomous community with a deep food and wine culture. The local language predates the Romance languages! What did you learn about the history of this community? #worldwinetravel
- 11:40am ET
- Q9 Did you learn anything about the Basque region that surprised you? #worldwinetravel
- Q10 What are your thoughts or suggestions for introducing this region to your audience? What is one thing you think wine enthusiasts should know about Basque Country? #worldwinetravel
- Q11 Open comment time! What did we miss in this chat? #worldwinetravel
- Thanks for joining our #worldwinetravel chat today. Join us next month as we explore Spanish Hard Cider with @culinary_cam