I’ve been craving outdoor time with friends whom I barely saw through the long pandemic winter. Here in New York City, I think we’ve finally seen the last of the cold.
Along with a renewed sense of hope, the change in weather and widespread vaccinations have brought up some fond memories. One in particular is of a long midday meal on a terrace in Spanish Basque Country, where a bracing, salty breeze blew off the Bay of Biscay and course after course of seafood arrived in the bright sunshine.
First came shellfish: tiny shrimp sizzled with garlic then larger cousins grilled in their shell. They were followed, one after the other, by baby eels, squid in their own ink, salt cod, bream and other dishes that I can’t remember.
With all that passed before us, however, only one wine was served, though many bottles were uncorked. It was Txakolina, the often mildly effervescent wine of Basque Country, which pretty much goes with everything you eat there. If lamb or beef had been on the table, we still would have been drinking Txakolina.
Twenty years ago, Txakolina was largely unknown in the United States. But it has become increasingly popular, and nowadays is not at all hard to find, especially when the weather turns warm.
This month let’s try Txakolina (pronounced chock-oh-LEE-nah), or more specifically, Getariako Txakolina, the largest Txakolina appellation centered around the town of Getaria, which not coincidentally is where I had that memorable lunch.
The three bottles I recommend are:
Antxiola Getariako Txakolina 2020 (Polaner Selections, Mount Kisco, N.Y.) $19
Ulacia Getariako Txakolina 2019 (Europvin U.S.A., Van Nuys, Calif.) $20
Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina 2020 (De Maison Selections, Chapel Hill, N.C.) $22
The Getariako Txakolinas, as I said, are usually slightly effervescent, but those from the other appellations, Bizkaiko Txakolina and Arabako Txakolina, are not necessarily so. Also, some rosé Txakolinas have become popular in the United States. Red Txakolina exists too, but it’s pretty rare. These three are all white, but if you can only find a rosé, no worries.
If you can’t find any of these bottles, I also recommend Rezabal, Berroja Berroia (a Bizkaiko Txakolina), Txomin, Doniene Gorrondona (also Bizkaiko Txakolina), Xarmant (Arabako Txakolina), Bengoetxe and Roca Altxerri. Look for the latest vintage you can find as, in my experience, the fresher the better.
What to eat? You can consult my menu above for inspiration. This wine is wonderful with seafood dishes. But if the Basques will eat it with lamb, who am I to say no?
Serve chilled. If you want to drink as the Basques often do, serve in tumblers and pour from on high, a traditional and showy method that will impress your friends (unless you miss).
Join the Discussion
Eric Asimov, The New York Times wine critic, is discussing txakolina, from Spanish Basque Country. Sample wines, and as you sip, ask yourself these questions. Join the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments of this article.
Do you see Txakolina as sparkling or still?
How did this wine make you feel?
Would you drink this wine again?
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