Itsasmendi Cellars - Basque Country
Updated: Mar 23
You should not be surprised if you experience some difficulties to say words such as Hondarribi Zuri, Hondarribi Zuri Beltza or Izkiriot Handi (you can have a go at it!). Most of europeans (whatever their nationality) also find it hard to say them.
However, these words are all part of a common WINE DICTIONNAIRE for the Basque country, north of Spain, in which the most important one is "Txakoli" or "Txakolina", which in Basque stands for “homemade wine” or “farm wine”.
For wine lovers Txakoli is a light, elegant, palate cleansing and slightly effervescent white wine. But, most of all, it is refreshingly acidic and low in alcohol - which makes it just perfect to be paired with the exquisitely fresh Basque cuisine. It has a lot to do the harsh and cold conditions of this Atlantic wine region. Nowadays, it is mostly produced from the hondarribi grape variety by several wine makers, one of which is Garikoitz Rios from Itsasmendi Cellars, with whom we had the privilege to speak.
So, briefly written, this is TXAKOLI wine!
Now, let us imagine for one moment, that all those words we can not pronounce, all that wine knowledge, all those vineyards and Txakoli itself, no longer existed…
They were forever lost and the only thing we could know about them was from the elders - remembering how their fathers drinked Txakoli with red meat, fish and seafood and with pintxos, after work… If this was true, we would only be able to write, today, how Txakoli became popular in the 17th and 18th century Spain and how Phylloxera (vine disease) devastated its vineyards in the later quarter of the 19th century, to the point in which you could not hear the Txakoli word for the most part of the 20th century.
And, in truth, this was what really happened! Txakoli and hondarribi vineyards were amosot erased from face of the Earth.
But, as we all know, wine and food can not live forever apart… Especially if we remember the Basque country as a renown region for exquisite gastronomy, where it is not hard to stumble upon trend leading chefs and restaurants. So, one conclusion was obvious: not having a basque wine to pair with such incredible cuisine was not something the proud Basques would accept easily.
It was by the second half of the 1980´s that a miracle started to take shape and a palliative resurrection was set in place: the Txakoli wine resurrection!
Garikoitz Rios and Itsasmendi Cellars were part of it. It was not an easy process - we imagine no resurrection is! - because the wine knowledge was lost, Garikoitz tells us. They had to improvise for the most part of it, or experiment new solutions regarding vineyards. For that same purpose, Itsasmendi Cellars has put in place a I&D Center to record and produce knowledge about wine.
It was through this systematic approach that the Txakoli wine was resurrected and can now be paired with basque cuisine at any of the incredible restaurants of Bilbao, San Sebastian or Victoria: pintxos will no longer have to be flavoured with the feeling that something is missing….
When asked if there was a Itsasmendi Cellar story he would like to share with us, Garikoitz gave an interesting and enigmatic answer: people.
For years, he was focused on the technical side of growing vineyards (the grapes, the hondarribi variety, the soil conditions, the blends, the temperature etc…) but lately he turned his attention into a more human dimension as he came to the conclusion that, if you do not curate human relations, if you do not water and cherish them, then all this effort can, again, be lost.: miracles can only happen if you put in the people that work with you the same passion you put in growing vineyards and making wine.
If you want to flavour those fresh, light and citric wine notes that come to light when you open a Txakoli bottle of Itsasmendi (let us say Itsasmendi 7 ) please bare in mind that you are actually tasting a human accomplishment and you should celebrate it by pairing the Txakoli with fish, or seafood, or a bit of asian. Because you never preedict about the future…
So, seize the day, be happy for the little things in life and open a Txakoli bottle of wine!
About the Basque Country |
The Basque Country is famous for its awe-inspiring natural landscape, from the majesty of its mountains to its stunning coast, which is famous amongst surfers. From rivers and waterfalls to well preserved forests, this area of Spain offers many spots in which visitors will find themselves surrounded by beauty.
But if you are willing for a more cosmopolitan approach, the Basque country will not let you down either… There is plenty to choose, from the Frank Gheary Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, to the stylish Belle Époque city of San Sebastian (Donostia) and its Film Festival, or the Vitoria-Gasteiz city walls.
Whatever the approach you choose (being it more adventurous exploring the mountains or sea coast, or the urban kind) you will always find exquisite gastronomic options to be paired with incredible wine…
So, why not start now this journey to Basque Country, by opening a Txakoli bottle of Itasmendi?
All photos provided by Itsasmendi and free online platform
Interview and writing by Antonio Moreira
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Itsasmendi ‘7’ Txakoli 2015 & 2017 | Bizkaiko Txakolina, Gernika, Basque County | Spain
Made to express the unique characteristics of each vineyard, ‘7’ delivers a mosaic of white fruits, mixed florals, grapefruit, chamomile and mineral. The palate opens quite full bodied and rich, but settles as zesty acidity and structure gain control on the finish.
Pair it with raw seafood such as ceviches, oysters or sushi. It is also delicious as an aperitif.
Grape Varieties: 80% Hondarrabi Zuri, 20% Riesling
. 2015 Itsasmendi 7 | Order Now
. 2017 Itsasmendi 7 | Order Now