Although Txakolina looks like a terribly difficult name to pronounce, it is actually quite easy, and kind of fun to say – “chah-kuh-leena.” But what the heck is it?!
Txakolina is a low alcohol, lively, dry white wine that can sometimes have a little spritz in it from quick bottling before tank fermentation has completed, so fermentation finishes in the bottle.
These wines originate in Basque Country, a coastal mountain region in northern Spain. Basque Country is an autonomous community that is viewed as a separate nationality of Basque people on Spanish soil, with their own Parliament and Prime Minister. They even have their own Basque language.
Basque Country is also esteemed as the capital of gastronomy in Spain. It has the greatest concentration of Michelin starred restaurants than any other region in the country. It is known for its seafood as well as bar finger food, called pintxos. It is also known for its most famous local wine, Txakolina (also called Txakoli).
In recent history, it has been a wine that hasn’t been taken very seriously and was mainly a homemade wine. In fact, Spanish wine law in the 1970s described it as a wine made with grapes “that cannot normally reach full ripeness” because of the cooler, coastal mountain climate in Basque Country. There was a risk it could not be classified as actual wine because it often didn’t meet minimal required alcohol levels.
Fast forward a couple of decades and with new technology, a better understanding of viticulture, and enterprising new winemakers, these grapes consistently reach ripeness and alcohol levels between 10.5-13% ABV.
Txakolina is mainly produced with the white Hondurrabi Zuri grape, although some producers will blend it with a small amount of other varieties. There is also a red version made with Hondurrabi Beltza grapes, which are similar to Cabernet Franc. You can also find Txakolina in a rose style. In their native Spain, these wines are poured with a special flourish with the bottle held high and poured in a long stream into the glass, said to help aerate the wine and encourage the fizz.
These wines are very often meant to be drunk young, with low to moderate alcohol, delicate citrus and apples flavors and vibrant acidity with light effervescence. It’s an excellent food pairing wine, especially as an aperitif, with tapas, antipasto or charcuterie. It also makes for a perfect summer porch-pounder on a blazing hot day. You should be able to find a few labels at your local wine shop, generally priced from $15-$20.
- Zudugarai Antxiola Txakolina ($15)
- Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina ($20)
- Rezabal Txakoli ($20)