Basque Country Means Pintxos and Txakolina #WorldWineTravel

World Wine Travel Group Basque Discoveries
In our continuing virtual trip around Spain, our #WorldWineTravel group is learning about Basque Country this month. This region in the northeast of Spain is highly influenced by the Atlantic ocean and experiences a moderate, maritime climate. The wines have a freshness and acidity which has brought them into popular consciousness. Take a look further down in this post for links to all our virtual world traveller posts.

Three Txakoli regions in northern coastal Spain. map courtesy of vineyards.com

Txakolina 101
The Basque Txakoli regions have a long history of wine, though it was always thought of as a peasant wine, and was primarily consumed locally. Phylloxera hit the region hard in the late 19th century and the local grapes were nearly lost. Luckily, concerned growers persevered, and the region was able to rebuild. The key indigenous grapes are  Hondarribi Zuria for whites, and Hondarribi Beltza (“black Hondarribia”) for reds and rosés. The region was relatively unknown, with only one paragraph in the Spain chapter of the “World Atlas of Wine” out of 375 coffee table book size pages. For more info, a nice intro article is available on the Spanish wines website here. White Txakolina is bright and refreshingly acidic, often with a good deal of spritz. Reds are also refreshing and low in tannins, another great warm weather choice.

Bengoetxe Baserria
Bengoetxe is a bit different from the other wineries in the Txakoli area. They are further inland, in a historic vineyard which was lost to Phylloxera and only replanted in 2001. The inland location allows them to farm organically (certified, too) as well as fermenting with ambient yeasts. As opposed to most Txakolina’s which have some injected CO2, their wine does not.

Bengoetxe Baserria Getariako Txakolina DO 2019 ($23 locally or online here) 12% abv
Eye: Pale gold color
Nose: Medium intensity aromas of just ripe pears, yellow apple, underripe peach, tarragon
Mouth: Dry, high acidity, light body, medium alcohol, medium intensity flavors, medium finish. Very refreshing and tart flavors echo the aromas.
Observations: Refreshing light body wine with a nice variety of fresh, barely ripe flavors. This wine doesn’t shout, yet it attracts attention – pure and refreshing.

Doniene Gorrondona
Doniene Gorrondona is located very close to Bilbao and very close to the coast. The seaside environment is too wet to allow organic farming, though the family works in the most sustainable way possible. Vines are trained high on pergolas to allow airflow to resist disease. They are committed to using the native Hondarrabi Beltza grape and revitalizing red wine from this region.

Doniene Gorrondona Bizkaiko Txakolina DO 2017 Hondarrabi Beltza ($28 locally or online here)12.5% abv
Eye: Medium garnet color
Nose: Medium intensity aromas of fresh ripe red cherries, strawberries, blueberries, subtle leather, tobacco
Mouth: Dry, medium plus acidity, medium chalky tannins, medium body with a nice soft texture, medium alcohol, medium flavor intensity, medium plus finish. Fruit, leather, tobacco are all present in the flavors as well as the aromas.
Observations: A very nice wine, clearly from a place which is not too hot. Red and blue fruits, nice acidity and moderate tannins, it was delicious with all our pintxos.

Do It Yourself Pintxos
Pintxos are the Basque interpretation of tapas in other parts of Spain. Key differences (from what I could glean) are that pintxos are typically served on a slice of toasted bread, and speared with a pick. Lesson number one: pintxos are a great set of dishes to eat at a restaurant. Let them do all the work and ALL THOSE DISHES. If, like me, you just can’t resist, I found a very good blog with lots of recipes for easy pintxos. Thanks to Spanish Sabores blog for great pintxos ideas and recipes. One workable possibility would be to do this as a pot luck style party, with everyone bringing a pintxos to share. With that in mind, here are the pintxos we enjoyed:

  • Gilda – a classic cold pintxos, it’s named after a favorite character of Rita Hayworth. It’s just a little skewer of olives, anchovies, and pickles. My Minnesota version includes a cherry tomato, Julie’s homemade pickle, anchovy, little pepperoncini, and an olive. I was a bit worried about the anchovy, but these were a universal hit!
  • Piquillo peppers stuffed with tuna – these were available canned in a local specialty shop, so easy to plate and serve.
  • Goat cheese and carmelized onion – Cana di Capra goat cheese from Spain is a favorite of ours, and the carmelized onions were easy to prepare.
  • Gambas al ajillo – garlicy shrimp. Easy to make but just another set of dishes….
  • Asparagus wrapped in Serrano ham – easy and delicious, more pans…..
  • Tortilla – another classic and apparently takes a while to perfect. Mine was tasty but didn’t look like other photos I had seen. It’s basically a version of a potato omelet.
Pintxos are an excellent opportunity to eat out! You have been warned…..

Links to World Wine Travel Bloggers Basque Discoveries
Take a look below at all the great ideas to support your Basque exploration, then join our chat on Saturday morning June 25, 10-11am CDT to hear even more about what we discovered. Are you a Txakolina fan? Have you visited nearby San Sebastian or Bilbao? We’d love to hear what you think! Join us on Twitter at the #winophiles hashtag!

Comments
15 Responses to “Basque Country Means Pintxos and Txakolina #WorldWineTravel”
  1. robincgc says:

    I love that you found two still wines from the region. I went for the traditional Txakoli, I do love a bit of spritz! Your Pintxos look delicious! They do seem so simple until you realize you are making 6 different dishes! My kitchen was a mess after! I do want to try those goat cheese and caramelized onion pintxos, they sound divine!

    • Thanks Robin. The wines were fun, we get quite a few of the “normal” Txakoli wines here, so I enjoyed finding something just a little out of the ordinary. Any of the pintxos would be fine on their own and I’ll incorporate some of them into our normal appetizers, but a full round of pintxos – no!

  2. wendyklik says:

    I’ve been waiting for this post since you posted your photo on facebook. Sounds like you had a good time before cleanup had to start anyway. Your pintxos choices are perfect.

  3. So many dishes but the Pintxos do look delicious. Txakoli is perfect for this cuisine and also just right for relaxing beside the lake!

  4. Nicole Ruiz Hudson says:

    “Pintxos are an excellent opportunity to eat out! You have been warned…..” This cracked me up . . . and a very good point, although yours look delicious! I will say on thing about tortillas — everyone’s looks different and there are a million and one different spins on it. Yours looks great to me and I personally always like mine a little toasty. Getting very hungry with this post.

  5. culinarycam says:

    As always, Jeff, this is an inspiring and mouthwatering post! I chuckled at your “messy kitchen” photo. My kitchen always seems to look like that at the end of a day. Everyday. Looking forward to an pintxos and Txakolina dinner with friends soon.

  6. Looking forword to trying these wines!

  7. I’d love to try a still wine from Txakolina. Great find Jeff!

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