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11.30.2005

2004 Uriondo Txakolina, Bizkaiko (Basque), Spain

urTxakolina.jpgIf I could find a wine like this once a month, for the rest of my life, I think I would die a happy man. Not that it's such an amazing wine, it's tasty but not mind-blowing, but its just got so much unique personality, and it is so different from what I drink on a daily basis. The world of wine is a wide and wonderful place.

But let me back up, since you may still be stumbling over the name of the thing, which to most Americans is quite a mouthful. The name of the producer is Uriondo, a small winery in the Basque region of Spain (the town of Bizkaiko, specifically). The name of the wine is Txakolina, a typical white wine of the region. To the best of my knowledge, it is pronounced like "choco-lina." But it doesn't really matter whether you know how to pronounce it. This isn't one of those wines that people get fussy about. In fact, it's got a special place in the hearts of the Basque.

Txakolina is currently synonymous with tapas in the Northern part of Spain. Popular for merely the last 1000 years or so, it was once a drink reserved only for aristocrats and kings. It then became a popular "village" wine, usually made in small quantities by families in different villages, and now it has become quite popular as an accompaniment to Tapas. It is the casual, easy drinking, unpretentious Basque white that nobody thinks twice about. In Basque eateries it is served fully chilled in tumblers or even water glasses, and is often poured from great heights into the aforementioned glasses, both for show and to break up the wine's natural carbonic gas (it can sometimes be slightly fizzy, though this wine showed very little sparkle). I've never seen this pouring in action myself, but apparently some bars will even just cut a small piece out of the cork and then re-insert it into the bottle to provide an even slower, finer stream into the glass.

Txakolina is a D.O. wine (appellation controlled) that can be made in only three regions in Spain, one of which is Bizkaiko. It is traditionally made from the native grapes Hondarribi Zurri (25%) and Folle Blanche (70%). Never heard of them? Good. Me neither. Interestingly enough, though Txakolina is a white wine, Hondarribi Zurri is actually a red grape. This particular wine also contains about 5% Sauvignon Blanc.

All of the grapes come from the Uriondo family's 7 acre vineyard which lies at a low altitude with a southeasterly exposure. The Hondarribi Zurri and Folle Blanche are fermented and aged in steel tanks while the Sauvignon Blanc is barrel fermented in American Oak.

Tasting Notes:
A medium straw color in the glass, this wine has a nose that screams juicy ripe pears, sea air, and a touch of honey. In the mouth it is zingy and crisp with acidity. It's primary flavors are of tart raw quince and unripe pears with a slight earthiness and mustiness underlying the fruit that gives it a very unique and compelling character. The wine has a great finish which accentuates this mustiness as it becomes even slightly nutty in flavor.

Food Pairing:
What wouldn't I like to try this wine with? It's definitely, per the Basque tradition, an excellent seafood wine, and one that would be a perfect match for grilled lemon prawns.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $13

This wine can easily be purchased on the Internet. Imported by De Maison Selections, NC.

Comments (7)

Brett wrote:
12.01.05 at 12:36 AM

Alder, I love txakolina, so I'm glad that you wrote such a glowing and informative post about this quaffable white. I had the opportunity on my last trip to visit one of the wineries that make this simple wine. The lucky grapes are grown on a hillside with a spectacular view of the rocky coast below, so it's no wonder it's the perfect match with the local grilled fish. I took a picture in a tapas bar in San Sebastián of txakolina being poured just as you described that I think you will enjoy.

Alder wrote:
12.01.05 at 7:37 AM

Brett,

Thanks for the link and the comment. A lot of people say that Txakolina has flavors of the sea due to the grapes' proximity to the ocean. I'm starting to think that it might be an idea sushi wine as well.

12.01.05 at 7:44 AM

I'm also a big Txacolina fan, though I've not had one from this producer yet.

There are red Txacolinas (txacolinae?) but they represent a small percentage of the the production, and they don't leave the country (though I heard of one person who might start importing them and who is working on improving its quality for the larger market).

12.01.05 at 7:47 AM

Also, I thought the pouring from a great height emphasized the bubbles. My impression is that you want it to be slightly fizzy. The few other devotees I know are always sad when the bubbles are gone. But imagine pouring beer or champagne from a great height into a glass. It would foam up a lot more. (of course the bubbles wouldn't last as long as a result, but this isn't a "sip delicately" kind of wine)

Geoff Smith wrote:
12.01.05 at 10:05 AM

Would it be fair to call this a white Basque fruit bomb?

Lenn wrote:
12.01.05 at 1:48 PM

That's it...I have to get myself some of this stuff.

Maybe I'll find one with a pretty label.

JJ wrote:
12.07.05 at 5:51 PM

My husband and I discovered this wine in San Sebastian this summer and found it to be sheer joy to drink... especially alongside many plates of tapas. The pouring technique definitely adds a lot to it, not just in bubbles but also in character. In perfect keeping with the Spanish (and specifically, Basque) way of life, it just FEELS like a party drink. In San Sebastian, it was always referred to simply as txcholi (not txcholina).

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