How about that for a name, right? It’s got a nice ring to it AND the wine itself is spectacular! Coming from the Basque region of Spain, Hondarrabi Zuri is the name of the grape, and it also can present itself with multiple different spellings. The spritzy wine produced from this grape has an even more unique name – Txakolina (chock-oh-LEE-nah). A naturally effervescent white wine, it is low in alcohol and refreshingly light.
The first time I tried Txakolina was several years ago at a wine event in Miami featuring multiple producers from Spain. It was one of my favorite wines of the event, yet given that it’s not the easiest varietal to find, over time it fell off my radar. Seeing this varietal appear in the A to Z wine challenge was a welcome reunion.
Located on the Bay of Biscay, the Basque region is on the northern rim of Spain, where it has a cool, damp climate influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. The brisk breezes from the coast and cool temperatures contribute to the higher acidity level of of the Hondarrabi Zuri grape that is virtually only found in this region. The ocean also plays a role in the flavor profile of the Txakolina wine. The salt air delivers the slightest whisper of brininess and minerality to remind you of its presence. Upon closing your eyes, you can practically transport yourself to a seaside cafe on a sunny summer afternoon.
The light carbonation in the wine is the result of natural carbon dioxide gas being present during the fermentation phase. The higher you hold the bottle above the glass to pour, the more of the bubbles you will see in the wine.
The Txakolina for the A to Z wine challenge was a 2020 vintage from the producer, Hiruzta, which means “three-person harvest” in Basque, a nod to the family owned and operated winery. It has bright, fresh citrus aromas and that classic electric zing on the tongue. The crispness of the wine is followed by that slight salinity mentioned earlier, which acts like a soft contrasting base to show off the bright bubbles — almost like a sheath of dark velvet underneath sparkling diamonds.
What was interesting was that as the wine opened up and the chill began to dissipate, the tart citrus aroma yielded to more sweet tropical notes like pineapple. Given it’s seaside origination, we paired it with clam linguine, a perfect maritime match.
The good news is that Txakolina is becoming a bit easier to find so check in with your local retailers and if you don’t see it on the shelf, ask and they may be able to order it for you.