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Txakolina has taken the in-the-know wine crowd by storm over the last few years. Somms and bacchanalian revelers alike adore the bright, dry, saline, fizzy fun that each bottle provides. But today’s discovery is a whole new ballgame. This is Arabako Txakolina, from higher elevation hills a little further from the coast, and it is a serious and seriously good step up from its simple, porch-poundable siblings. Low yields, late ripening, and meticulous farming all play a part in producing one of the most complex and balanced white wines from Northern Spain that we’ve tasted all year. No fizz is needed—this wine is delicious as is and just as nature intended. Whether you’ve had other Txakolina before or not, this is a guaranteed revelation! Only 900 cases were made, and there’s not much left. Grab a six pack, save 10%, and enjoy a beautiful bottle of Basque joy.
Before I continue, let's chat languages. All Basque wines have essentially two names, one in Euskara (aka Basque) and one in Spanish. For the rest of this article I’ll use the Euskara name for this lovely wine, which is Arabako Txakolina, instead of the Spanish, which would be Txakolí de Àlava. “Tantaka” is the name winemaker Juanjo Tellaexte has given his project, or more specifically. his labor of love. Juanjo lovingly cares for a bit over four hectares of vines in his native village of Artomaña, on land that his family has farmed for millennia. In his own words, his goal is to make “honest wines with a deep, local character…avoiding manipulation and masking.” He is devoted to the land and his community, where he also serves as the local priest.
Arabako has long distanced itself from its coastal siblings, Bizkaiko and Getariako, and not just because it has always eschewed effervescence. Located in a valley of lush, rolling hills, this tiny region is flanked by steep cliffs that can act as a bit of a wind tunnel for cool, Atlantic breezes that blow in from the north. It is markedly cooler, and wetter, than the famous coastline just a few miles away. Though summer days can be comfortable and warm, night time temperatures drop drastically, which leads to a very long, slow ripening season. The 2021 “Tantaka” blanco was harvested in the second week of October, long after the coastal wines had begun bubbling away in tanks.
This slow ripening process, coupled with the deep chalky soils of limestone and clay, is what lends Arabako Txakolina its special aromatic complexity and textural depth. Juanjo takes that terroir and ups the ante considerably by farming organically, hand harvesting, and fermenting with native yeasts. He uses only the local Hondarrabi Zuri for his Blanco, and without bubbles or other makeup this is where the variety can really shine. Serve cool at around 50 degrees in an all-purpose stem and you’ll be embraced by bunches of white flowers, lemon-lime zest, white nectarines, raw almonds, and hints of tarragon. The medium bodied texture is silky but precise, with just ripe orchard fruit, precise acidity, and a pinch of fleur de sel. It’s a perfect companion to any seafood dish, but if you want to keep it traditional try serving alongside white anchovy pintxos. If you need to break out of your white wine routine this is easily the most delicious, and affordable, way to do so!
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