A very brief sleep in the comfortable Hotel Itxas Gain prior to a 7.30am meet with the team from Txomin Etxanix winery, a quick coffee on the way, then we take a short drive up some winding lanes exiting the town. Txomin is a family run affair, and has a long long history in the area, now a modern and innovative set up with state of the art equipment but still retaining its social and environmental commitments to the land and local community. Perched on the steep terraces overlooking Getaria, the terrace is currently being extended to allow more working and cellar space, it was a little overcast when we arrived but the view was absolutely sensational both looking out to sea and to the surrounding vineyards as far as the eye could see.
The Basques name for Txakolí (Chacoli) is Txakolina, a wine style that has not always been all that visible on our shelves or wine lists in the UK. In the Basque country of northern Spain several generations of winemakers have produced Txacoli locally and it has remained a steadfast offering to the local market across the region. A perfect accompaniment to the freshest of fresh grilled fish and shellfish, dishes of this autonomous coastal region of northern Spain that prides itself on its cuisine and wine.
The wines are usually very pale with greenish hues in the glass, lots of citrus, green apples and a lovely salinity and minerality, sometimes a green, sappy quality similar to the wines of Greece and Corsica. The Txakolina blanco 2018 we tasted from Bodega Toxmin Etxaniz was a lovely pale lemon colour, lively and slightly sparkling with a refreshing acidity, lots of citrus fruits and white floral aromas with a palate of crisp green apple, pear and zingy lemon .
Next stop back into town then out the other side, we pass under an ugly flyover and up a bumpy old track winding up the steep incline to a beautiful setting that is home to Bodega Txakoli Rezabal. Husband and wife Mireya and Anders Rezabal founded the estate in their native Basque country in 1996, the ultra modern winery uses new technologies to make Txakolí based on traditional techniques. After brief introductions and a quick wander around the vines, we tasted wines in the cellar straight from the tank that were ready for the bottle, then on to two of the wines already on the market, Rezabal and Arri, both made with the two native varieties, Hondarrabi-Zuri and Hondarrabi-Beltza. Together with the unique breezy microclimate of Zarautz these varietals allow the winery to produce wines with a distinct Rezabal personality.
The Rezabal Txakoli was crisp, fresh and extremely zingy, packed with crisp green apple, citrus and some melon, a little CO2 deliberately left over in the wine making process gives this wine a fun spritz, frothy, zesty and refreshing, a characteristic of Txakoli Rezabal.
The Arri was a little more elegant and complex, on the nose tropical fruits such as pineapple and ripe apricot, a richer mouth feel, maintaining a balanced acidity and a little prickle on the tongue.
The Rezabal vineyards are located on steep slopes in Zarauz, next to the sea, using traditional high vine trellis systems to encourage a good leaf surface that guarantees good ripening and allows the bunches to aerate while avoiding fungal diseases.
I would have quite happily stayed where we were for the day, tasted a little more, explored the vines then settled on a perfect spot for lunch but we had a tight schedule to keep and a four hour drive ahead to our next appointment. It was a quick farewell, lots of hand shaking and a couple of bottles hastily packed into the boot wedged against the bag containing the jars of those fantastic fat anchovy we picked up last night!
When I travel I realise and appreciate that I am extremely privileged to explore new parts of the world when on one of my wine based road trips, through travel I can see that we all have become far more accepting and interested / excited about regional wines that are completely individual in style, these wines can really highlight a sense of place and they always offer a glimpse into local history and the community that produces it. Txakolí is all of these things, a real food wine matching the local cuisine with absolute precision. We will certainly stock these wines at Fourth&Church over the summer months and the team will be suggesting tasty little pinxos and delicious small plates that work so well with Txakoli. If you look carefully you will see Txakoli starting to make an appearance on the shelves of good wine shops such as the mighty Butlers Wine Cellar in Brighton (also mail order) and many of the more interesting wine lists round and about, it should sit comfortably alongside listings of the ever so popular Vinho Verde, Albariño , Alvarinho or young Muscadet. I would urge you to seek these wines in their native coastal towns of northern Spain but if a trip to Getaria is not on the cards just yet, you should be able to find something to taste a little closer to home.