A bit different (Getaria, Spain)

One of the big problems I have with the globalisation and homogenisation of wine is that unique and traditional wines for uncomplicated consumption with food are lost. The first really different and regionally specific wine discovery I have made in Spain was made in San Sebastian the previous weekend. During a tapas bar crawl I was introduced to Txakoli (pronounced chakoli), which is a wine made on the coast only 30 kilometres west of San Sebastian on the way to Bilbao. The vineyards are planted mostly in pergola trellising systems, on the steep slopes of the coast. The wines produced are 95% white wine with a slight spritz to it, as a small secondary fermentation happens in the bottle. To encourage the bubbles when it is poured it is done from some height, something I had seen in San Sebastian. The high acids and slight fruit residual sugar matches beuatifully with fresh salty pinchos. I’m not sure it would taste the same if drinking it anywhere else, but I was intrigued to find out more. Carlos from Artadi very kindly set me up with an appointment at the most important Txakoli producer in Getaria.

In case you forget which way the Atlantic Ocean is

If you ask most people involved with wine in Spain to name one Txakoli producer, chances are they will say Txomin Etxaniz (pronounced Chomin Etchanitz), as it is by far the most important and also one of the largest. To give you an idea, there are over 60 producers in the Getaria area but only 400 hectares of vineyards. 40 hectares are owned by Txomin Etxaniz and an additional 20 hectares are sold to the winery, making up 15% of the fruit. One of the most astonishing things is the same family have been running this estate unbroken since 1649, an extraordinary feat for a Spanish winery. So obsessed with ensuring the quality and recognition of this region, the family spearheaded the formation of the Getariako Txakolina Denominacion de Origen in 1989, and thus one of the most unique wines in the world was protected. The winery sits in the middle of the vineyards sitting on steep slopes facing north towards the Atlantic Ocean.

Pergola vineyards at Txomin Etxaniz

As you can see from the photo above, most of the vineyards in Getaria are planted in pergola trellising. This keeps the fruit above the ground which can get quite humid and also suffers from frosts. The only vines that aren’t planted this way are on the steepest slopes where you can only fit one row of vines. Fruit is hand harvested and pressed in the winery, and is some cases have some skin contact at low temperatures pre-fermentation. The juice begins its fermentation in tanks, and before it completes it is effectively frozen to stop the fermentation and retain some residual sugar and yeast. The wine is then eventually bottled where a very small secondary fermentation occurs, giving the final product a very slight spritz and a little sediment as well. The varieties used are unique to the region, called Hondarrabi Zuri (white), and Hondarrabi Beltza (black). The wine is indeed very crisp and fresh, high in acidity but with some fruit to keep things pleasant. At the winery they show the wine with some home-prepared cure sardines, a perfect match. Click here to read my notes on the tasting.

Click here to see more photos from my visit to Getaria. Next week I head south again, this time to visit some truly iconic wineries in Ribera del Duero.

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