The beautiful Basque Country in the North of Spain, famous for its dramatic coastline and innovative gastronomy, is also home to Txakoli, a light, fruity, zippy, slightly sparkling white wine. There are three Denominaciones de Origen (D.O.) within the Txakoli region; Getaria, Bizkaia, and Álava. Only relatively recently recognized as an official D.O. region, in 1989 despite a long winemaking tradition in the area dating back to at least the 15th century. The first Txakoli D.O. was Txakoli Getaria or Getariako Txakolina, as it’s called in Basque. Quality wine production here is no mean feat with cool summers and high rainfall. However, thanks to the determination of local producers who have striven to conserve traditional cultivation (wire trained vines of indigenous varietals) with the help of modern vinification practices, the region has grown from strength to strength.
The unique Txakoli wines are ideal served cold and accompanied by anchovies, tuna ventresca, and fish dishes. Most Txakolis are designed to be drunk young. However, several producers have successfully experimented with oak barrel fermentation and extended time on the lees, producing fuller-bodied, more structured Txakolis capable of both cellar aging and standing up to richer Basque cuisine.
In the early 1980s, there were only 21 hectares of vines in Getaria; in 2007, the region was extended to the whole of the historic Gipuzkoa territory, and now there are over 400 hectares under vine. Predominantly the white variety Hondarrabi Zuri is grown, representing about 95%. The minimal quantity of red is from the Hondarrabi Beltza.
D.O. Txakoli Bizkaia or Bizkailo Txakolina was established in 1994. Successful vineyards have popped up all over the region (which surrounds the city of Bilbao), sticking to coastal areas and valleys and the interior. The highest concentration of vineyards is around Urdaibai and Uribe. Again the principal grape varieties are white Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarribi Zuri Zerriti, and red Hondarribi Beltza; however, the following varieties are permitted as a minimum percentage of the blend; Mune Mahatsa, Izkiriota, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay. Local consumption and demand are such that it is rare to find Txakoli Bizkaia wines out of the region, despite their now international recognition. Their style differs from that of other Txakolis, being slightly more acidic and with more distinctive herbaceous notes.
D.O. Txakoli Álava or Arabako Txakolina is an interior region south of Bilbao; only established in 2001, it is the youngest of the three regions. The fresh, humid climate means that sugar levels are low in even the best vintages, and the resulting alcohol level rarely exceeds 9%. The two main varietals are again Hondarribi Zuri and red Hondarribi Beltza, with Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, and Petit Courbu also permitted.