Not so Sunny Spain

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Getaria Coastline

A swift exit from Gatwick on a sunny Monday lunchtime finds me in Bilbao, the purpose, an exciting road trip from northern Basque Spain to sunny Andalucia in the far south with a couple of detours on the way!

Ninety minutes in the air, we were straight through the wonderfully sedate Bilbao airport and heading east to the tiny cliff hugging town of Getaria. About an hours drive from the airport sitting somewhere between Bilbao and San Sebastian, Getaria is home to some of Spains greatest restaurants, one of the largest seafood distribution hubs in the country and a dramatic coastline featuring steep cliffs and waves fit for surfers.

Upon arrival it was grey and overcast, with a fine mist of light drizzle, not typical for July but the damp micro-climate contributes to the lushness of the beautiful vineyards that produce fruit for the local DO Getariako Txakolina. These wines are produced from local grapes such as ondarrabi zuri and ondarrabi beltza, as a style are light in alcohol, packed with citrus and fruity notes such as apple and apricots and a spritzy slightly effervescent saline freshness in the mouth.

Pre dinner we consumed a bottle Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli and a plate of buttery Cantabrian anchovies in a little bar overlooking the harbour. The anchovies make for another excuse to visit Getaria, plump, soft and a delicate flavour of the sea, world class and certainly the best I have ever tasted. ( A small detour into a little shop en route to dinner guaranteed a few jars for the suitcase)

The Tokmin Txakoli was a real treat, packed with citrus and muted white apple washed down the little fishies perfectly stirring the gastric juices prior to dinner

Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli with a little plate of Cantabrian Anchovies

Txomin Etxaniz Txakoli with a little plate of Cantabrian Anchovies

Dinner next at the wonderful restaurant Iribar, just a short walk from the harbour up a cobbled side street, with a great big charcoal grill tucked onto a small terrace to the left of the front door. Typical of local restaurants, these huge mechanical grills are a great sight upon arrival, the wonderful aroma of wood smoke and the perfect apparatus for flavorsome cooking.

We jumped straight in with more Boquerones, a rich txangurro a la donostiarra (stuffed, baked king crab) and a huge plate of kokotxa, best described as the delicate soft inner jaw of hake lightly poached in a rich green sauce. I had tried these recently in a London restaurant, these were worlds apart, just so much better. In addition a plate of delicious local scallops, small queenie in size but a little more fibrous in texture, rasted on the grill in their shells with a crunchy herby migas, Then along came a large bowl of clams with some local mushrooms and a great big house salad loaded with grilled asparagus adding a little vegetation to this fishy feast.

Kokotxas is a Basque dish. Normally hake, part of the fish head under the chin (the double chin of the fish)

Kokotxas is a Basque dish. Normally hake, part of the fish head under the chin (the double chin of the fish)

Baked scallop, herb migas

Baked scallop, herb migas

Wine lists in this part of the world are expansive, interesting and without the add on duties and taxes that hinder us in the UK when it comes to pricing. The local restaurant lists offer exceptional value, covering all the local regions and some stunners from the rest of regional Spain.

With this in mind and having already enjoyed two Txakolinas and winery visits lined up for the morning we opted for a bottle of Tomas Posigo’s beautifully crafted 2016 barrel fermented Verdejo, a richly integrated oakey white from a top Ribero producer, man this was good with the seafood!

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Following on, a 2010 Remelluri Rioja, a particularly elegant style of Rioja with a lovely depth of warm supple summer fruit such as strawberry and raspberry and a very fine curve of acidity keeping the wine really fresh and lifted, just a hint of smoke and spice to tidy things up, just perfect! I was absolutely done but a plate of mountain cheese turned up to bring and end to proceedings.

What a meal, impeccable local shellfish and fish, great wines at ludicrously cheap prices, a great host and the perfect start to fire us up for our trip over the next few days.