Euskal herria

A family trip took me back to one of my favourite coastlines, Spain’s Basque Country (Euskal herria in Basque), home of the spritzy white wine Txakolí.

the wine

Txakolí (cha-koh-lee) refers to a light, dry style of white wine from the Basque Country. They are generally young, fruity, light in alcohol (9.5º-11.5º), high in acid, and often slightly sparkling. Txakolí is pale yellow in colour, with intense citrus, herb and flower aromas, fresh, slightly acidic and easy to drink. It is often served from dizzying heights at San Sebastián pintxos bars to release its flavours before it hits the glass.

the grapes

Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Beltza are the main varieties, but more can be found depending on the DO, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Hondarribi Zuri Zerratia (Petit Courbu), Mune Mahatsa (Folle Blanche), Gros Manseng, and Petit Manseng. While Txakolí is most commonly associated with the Basque region, smaller amounts of this style are also produced in Cantabria along the Atlantic coast and in northern Castile-Léon. 80% of total production is consumed locally.

Vines seen above Getaria

Vines seen above Getaria

THE REGION

The vast majority of Txakolí wine is produced around the towns of Getaria and Zarautz, both of which fall within the DO Getariako Txakolína. The towns are about 30 minutes west from San Sebastián along the coast, and are well worth a visit.

Rain falls year-round in the Basque country, which can wreak havoc on vines hanging low to the ground. As such, grapes here are planted on a high trellis system, with the foliage forming a continuous canopy to improve the microclimate and protect against mildew and rot.

Wine Dog playing under the canopy

Wine Dog playing under the canopy

Our trip happened to correspond with the period of annual harvest (late September / early October), and at several occasions we saw local farmers collecting bunches by hand under the canopied vines.

what should i drink?

Txakolí are generally “cheap & cheerful” wines, and make an excellent companion to pintxos. We typically take whatever is offered by the glass at our favourite pintxos bars in San Seb (typically about €2), saving our £££ for the good stuff.

Jonny Orton