Txakolina (chak-oh-LEE-na), often called Txakoli (CHA-koh-li) or Chacolí (Spanish), is a bracing, tangy, slightly effervescent wine with zesty aromatics and a saline-like minerality, produced in the seaside region called Basque country, or Euskadi (Basque) and País Vascos (Spanish). Marked by its cool, rainy climate and its gently rolling hills flanking the Atlantic Ocean’s Cantabrian Sea and the Bay of Biscay, Basque Country has been producing wines for two millennia. The Txakoli D.O. concentrates on humidity-resistant, prolific grape varietals called Hondarrabi Zuri, Hondarrabi Beltza, and Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratie, all ancient, indigenous grapes. The D.O. also allows small percentages of international varieties in its three subregions.
Txakoli Getaria (Txakolina de Getariako) is a coastal region between Getaria and San Sebastian and is the largest of the three sub-regions, producing predominantly white wines with small amounts of reds and rosés. The coastal Txakoli Bizkaia D.O. (Txakolina de Bizkailo) is located further northwest and produces white wine, rosé, and translucent red wine known as Ojo Gallo – the “rooster’s eye.” The wines here generally have pronounced acidity and express more minerality. The third and smallest sub-regions, Txakoli Álava (Arabako de Txakolina), is an inland parcel that allows Petit Manseng, Gros Manseng, and Petit Courbu into the blends.
10 Reasons to Love Txakolina
Ocean influence for lip-smacking wines
Most vineyards in the Txakolina D.O. subregions are grown within a few yards or miles of the sea and thus marked by marine influences and cooling ocean mists. The marl-calcareous and sandstone soils over a limestone bedrock are rich in minerals and carbonates, providing an exquisite grape-growing environment in which grapes rarely over-ripen, resulting in mouth-watering acidity and a distinct salinity that, in combination, refresh your palate and cool your body on warm days. Chilled Txakolina is the perfect summer picnic or backyard barbeque wine. Its natural minerality and delicate fizz also make Txakolina a delicious choice all year round.
That racy acidity
Basque Country experiences vast diurnal shifts – those dramatic swings between day and night temperatures. Grapes cool down at night, preserving the acidity and preventing overripening, while days generally remain warm enough to ensure the grapes develop sugar and phenolic ripeness. This leads to wines with racy acidity and zesty freshness, particularly the white wines. Red and rosé wines maintain acidity while exhibiting floral and fruit notes. Modern winemakers choose stainless steel fermentation tanks and finish their wines in Acacia wood barrels with occasional lees contact for layered complexity.
Family-owned and small production
The Txakolí D.O. is tiny, with less than 1000 hectares under vine. That is just 1% of the land under vine in Rioja, its more famous neighbor. Txakolina’s annual wine production represents just 0.1% of the total annual wine production in Spain, with fewer than 80 wineries and 300 growers across the region producing Txakolina. The average vineyard plot is just 3 hectares. Wineries source grapes from their own vineyards and from growers. Locals greedily consume around 80% of the region’s annual production, so consider yourself lucky when you get your hands on a few bottles in your local market.
The human touch
Ancient vineyards planted on rolling hills and coastal slopes have narrow rows unsuitable to machinery. Vines are tended by hand from bud break, through veraison, to harvest. Hand-harvesting is the ideal – and often only – method for bringing in the grapes each season. Hand-harvesting lets grape-pickers and winemakers select only the best and ripest fruit, leaving bruised, damaged, and tainted fruit on the vine for the native fauna to enjoy.
A focus on sustainability
Spanish wine producers across the country are taking heed of climate warnings and focusing on sustainability. Txakoli winemakers and grape-growers have an innate respect for their culture and the land they fought to keep. Vineyards are planted, trained, and pruned on pergolas for even fruit ripening and to mitigate disease and the need for excessive chemical intervention. The move toward stainless steel tanks with temperature control mechanisms also promotes hygienic practices in wineries.
Fruit, flora, and spice galore
Reports suggest that nearly 90% of Txakolina wines are white. The Hondarrabi grapes produce white wines with restrained yet lovely floral, citrus, and herbal aromatics. Hondarrabi Zuri produces gorgeous jasmine, white freesia, blossom, and lemon notes, along with crunchy green apple, hints of grapefruit, seagrass, and herbal aromatics. The delicate mousse teases the tongue, enlivening the palate with each sip.
Love Cabernet Franc? Reach for Txakolina
Hondarrabi Beltza is reminiscent of Cabernet Franc. Txakolina red wines have rose and bramble aromatics along with notes of plum, raspberry, blackberry, and tangerine, finished with just a hint of crushed herbs, cypress, and spice on the palate. Still effervescent and bright, Txakolina red wines are a unique treat.
Rosé all day
Txakolina rosé wines are most often a blend of white and red Hondarrabi grapes. They exhibit beautiful floral aromatics like apple blossom, carnation, and lily, with ripe raspberry, strawberry, peach, and lime notes on the palate. Like its red and white counterparts, Txakolina rosé maintains its racy acidity and gentle effervescence, making for quaffable wines that are light in body yet rich in flavor.
The perfect pairing
Characteristically, Txakolina is slightly effervescent, and relatively low in alcohol, with an ABV ranging from 9.5 to 11.5%. Wines with high acidity, low residual sugar, low alcohol, and low to no tannin are a dream to pair with a wide range of dishes because they prime your palate with acid, making your mouth water, just begging for another sip or bite. The “original sauce,” tangy wines balance out dryness and saltiness, and cut through fat and grease, while the effervescence tickles your taste buds making flavors come alive. Just like the squeeze of lemon and sprig of thyme that garnish succulent shellfish or seafood, Txakolina wines are a perfect match for fish and seafood – much of what Basque cuisine is based on – as well as brunch items like quiche, poached eggs, and ricotta-stuffed crepes finished with chantilly cream and lemon zest. Try Txakolina rosé and red wines with charcuterie and cheese boards, game birds, pork tenderloin, roasted vegetables, glazed ham, and prime rib.
Txakolina wines are spritzy and festive, making them perfect for holiday parties. Their refreshing citrus, fragrant floral, and juicy fruit notes pair well with finger foods, hors d’oeuvres, and canapés. The acidity stands up to bubbling fondue, cheese plates, and charcuterie boards. And with just 11% alcohol by volume, a few glasses won’t leave you groggy in the morning.
A Who’s Who of Txakolina Wines
Relative newcomer Blai Txakolina has been in business since 2019, producing five gorgeous, modern Txakoli wines from Hondarrabi Zuri, Hondarrabi Beltza, Petit Courbu, and a splash of Riesling.
Perhaps the most easily-found Txakoli in the United States is the iconic Ameztoi Txakolina, with its towering, emerald green bottles. Wine producers since 1820, Ameztoi is as classic as it gets. While one of the longest established, they nevertheless produce white, red, and rosé Getariako Txakolina D.O. wines in a modern style, along with a rustic and age-worthy Kirkilla, as well as a range of spirits.
Txomín Etxaníz was established in 1930 and is one of the better-known wineries in the region, whose eponymous bottlings are approachable and widely exported.
Virgen de Lorea, established in 1994, focuses on a modern winemaking approach, with riper fruit leading to peachy, apricot, and floral aromatics in their wines.