Txakoli: Spain’s Not-So-Secret Weapon for Food & Wine Pairing
Enter Txakoli (CHOCK-oh-lee), one of the country’s inimitably Spanish wines. Almost always made from native grapes Hondarrabi Zuri (white) and Hondarrabi Beltza (red), this vibrant, low alcohol, and often slightly sparkling wine is both the ideal aperitif and quintessential all-day sipper.
While Txakoli can also sometimes be made alternatively as a red, sparkler, or even sweet wine, it’s the region’s traditional white and rosé expressions that have quickly found cult status in some countries such as United States, beloved by everyone from casual wine lovers to the most diehard, in-the-know professional sommeliers.
Hailing from three unique sub-regions of Basque country in Northern Spain—Getaria, Biscayan, and Alavan—Txakoli is made from vineyards perched above the salty waves of the Bay of Biscay’s Cantabrian Sea in a terroir unlike any other in the world. In this chilly, windy, and wet locale, viticulture is no easy feat—a story no doubt told in the glass of the area’s acid-driven, lip-smacking wines.
With a name that quite literally means “homemade” or “farm wine,” up until the 1980’s, Txakoli—then on the brink of extinction—was usually a humble local wine not widely commercially exported; luckily, in recent years, that fact has changed, with the wines reaching an ever-wider audience and finding a particularly devoted following from somms the United States. In fact, in 2001, only 12,000 bottles of Txakoli were exported to the United States. By 2009, this number had already grown to more than 100,000—and since then, exports have only grown in leaps and bounds.
Old vines, thankfully saved from historical erasure by forward-thinking, proud vignerons, are common here. In the cellar, most modern examples are vinified in stainless steel to showcase the wine’s trademark acidity and freshness; some also see some time in wood to add richness and roundness.
Txakoli whites show a pale yellow with greenish hints, while rosés—often produced from a blend of both red and white grapes—range in hue from a pale salmon to a deeper pink. These delicious and gulpable wines show classic notes of lemon and lime for white, and tart red berry fruit for reds, with a chalky minerality throughout the palate.
Stony, slightly effervescent, and often a touch salty, these wines are exceptional partners to fresh, lightly prepared tapas and snacks. For pairing, think seafood in all its varied and delicious forms—from raw oysters to steamed clams, grilled shrimp to tuna, you’ll find a wide array of dishes match brilliantly.
Text: Wines from Spain