“What I love about Txakoli,” says Dominican-born Jason Arias, manager of the Basque-themed restaurant Txikito in New York City, “is the social aspect. In the Basque country, people have a connection to what they eat and drink, and they include the people they love in that story.” His boss, Txikito chef and co-owner Alex Raij, agrees and puts it plainer: “I have rarely seen a wine make people so giddy and embrace one another in the same way,” she says.
When Raij and her Basque-born husband Eder Montero opened Txikito in 2009, few customers had heard about the strangely spelled wine with the tangle of hard consonants. Fewer still knew how to pronounce it: cha-ko-lee. And only a tiny handful knew anything about the origins and history of Txakoli and how it's best served. Txikito was on a mission, says Raij, to be “ambassadors for the Basque way of life, and that includes Txakoli. [At Txikito, we focus] exclusively on Basque wines, including Txakoli, and serve them with traditional dishes, in traditional glassware, pouring in the traditional style.”
For most of its history, says Arias, who has met several Txakoli producers in Spain's Basque region during tasting trips, Txakoli was a winemaker's wine: a small-batch production shared among friends and family, not available for export. Even now, with the increasing popularity of Txakoli outside Spain, “about 85% of the Txakoli production is still consumed within the region,” says Gil Avital, wine director at New York City's Tertulia restaurant. “It is a very simple 'peasants' wine, relatively low in alcohol so one can wake up early... and still be able to work in the vineyards.”
Txakoli's signature characteristics—that low alcohol content, effervescence, a minerally profile and acidic edge evocative of cider—are what make it perfect for sharing with friends. This isn't a wine you drink alone; it demands sharing. Txakoli plays an important role in the social life of Basque communities, says Avital. “Neighbors and friends meet at the local tapas bars and share a few glasses together at the end of the work day before heading home for dinner,” he explains.
Next, how to enjoy Txakoli and a video on how to pair it...