August 11, 2022
With temperatures soaring across the country, you’ll need a cold drink to lull you out of your heat-induced stupor. Look no further than Txakolina (pronounced chock-oh-lee-nah) an effervescent, incredibly crisp, refreshing wine that can cut through the hottest summer days. Txakolina (also called Txakoli or Chacoli) by no means is exclusively a seasonal drink; however, it's hard to deny that it is an ideal wine to enjoy on a summer terrace. The Basque region's answer to Vinho Verde, most Txakoli wines have relatively low alcohol (typically 10-11 percent), making them perfectly refreshing for hot summer days. A hint of salinity and ample acidity also make these wines perfect for social drinking over shared plates on a warm afternoon.
Txakolina is the traditional wine of the Basque region in northern Spain. Until recently, most Txakoli wine was consumed within the region. It was only in 1989 that the Basque town of Getaria was given its Denominación de Origen (DO), with the Bizkaiko Txakolina DO created in 1994 and a third tiny appellation, Arabako Txakolina DO created in 2001. These three distinct subregions make differing styles of the uniquely Basque delight. The good news is that you don't have to travel to Spain to get your hands on a bottle, because many beautiful examples of this wine have started to pop up across the U.S.
As Txakolina is becoming more and more popular in the United States, so too are events featuring this iconic wine. To toast the summer season, I recently attended Maxwell Park’s (a brilliant wine bar with two locations in Washington, D.C.) Txakoli Fest, where I had the opportunity to try notable Txakolinas and chat with Mike Aloi, DC Account Manager for Free Run Wine Merchants, to discuss the appeal of Txakolina.
Miranda Franco (MF): "Where should one begin their exploration of Txakoli wine?"
Mike Aloi (MA): "You should be able to ask for Txakoli at any good Spanish restaurant, and it is increasingly available at seafood restaurants with serious wine lists. I love Txakoli and oysters. One of the most iconic producers is Ameztoi, a 5th-generation family estate in Getaria. These carefully made wines, iconic for their brightness and signature spritz, are easily the most recognized brand of Txakoli in the United States."
MF: "What can someone tasting Txakoli for the first time expect from it?"
MA: "Txakoli is in one word: FRESH. Coming from the cool, coastal vineyards of Spain’s Basque Country along the Cantabrian coast, these wines are always light, bright, saline, and bursting with notes of citrus zest. Often bottled with a little bit of fizz, they are the perfect aperitif meant to be served alongside the tapas and pintxos. The tapas bar-lined streets of San Sebastian are practically flowing with Txakoli to wash down salty snacks like olives, anchovies, chorizo, and Marcona almonds."
MF: "What do you love most about Txakoli?"
MA: "Above all else, it is joyous and refreshing. I generally gravitate towards high acid, low alcohol wines - especially in summer. These wines are also extremely versatile on their own and with food. Most importantly, they are meant to be shared. These wines go down easy – by the bottle or passed in a communal drinking vessel called a porron (look it up – it’s as fun as it looks). These wines are just plain fun."
MF: "Why did Free Run Wine Merchants decide to work with Txakoli?"
MA: "We are lucky to have De Maison Selections as one of our import partners, and they are the undisputed kings of Txakoli in the US. They are a boutique importer of wines from Spain and France that just casually has four different Txakoli producers in their portfolio. That’s a commitment to a region, style, and wine-drinking culture."
"Beyond Ameztoi there are a couple of other producers I’d love to call out."
"Arotmaña ‘Xarmant – from steeper slopes further inland in the mountains of the Basque country, these wines – who’s name means “charming” in Basque – are certainly that. A little more fruit-forward and with a bit less acid and residual carbonation – these make a great entry point to Txakoli, especially for lovers of Riesling or Chenin Blanc. It also comes in a beautiful 250ml can that is ideal for the beach, the pool, or the park."
"Doniene Gorrondona – Perched on the precipitous green cliff above the Bay of Biscay in the seaside village of Bakio, near Bilbao, Doniene Gorrondona is making some of the most singular and interesting wines in the region. Helmed by female winemaker Itziar Insausti, Gorrondona is pushing the conversation forward regarding what the region can produce. Yes, they make a light and refreshing entry-level Taxkoli but also a few very special single vineyard white Txakolina with more power and structure than a drink like Chablis. Truly a delight."
"They are famous for never giving up on red or “tinto” Txakoli and are home to some of the oldest parcels of pre-phylloxera Hondarrabi Beltza (Cabernet Franc) vines in the region. It is easy to draw parallels between her red and the best wines of regions like Chinon in France’s Loire Valley. They also have a distillery on-site at the winery where they make Orujo (Spanish Grappa) from the pomace (seeds and skins) left over from the winemaking. They are making a couple of really cool liqueurs from this brandy base. One with herbs and spices similar to an amaro and another with seaweed from the nearby coastline that tasted unlike anything I had ever had."