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Txakoli – a must-try wine (even if you don't want to pronounce it)

The first bodega I visited on a revelatory, perception-challenging first trip to the Spanish Basque country’s Txakoli regions last autumn was Bodegas Astobiza, a ten-hectare estate 300m up in a stunningly beautiful location in mountainous Arabako Txakolina (aka Chacolí de Álava). Arabako is the smallest and most recently recognized of the three Txakoli regions (DO since 2001). It’s also the highest and furthest from the sea, so it’s drier with greater extremes of temperature – it can be 38ºC during the day in summer and 10–12º at night. The result is lower yields and wines of greater body than the norm for the more widely seen Txakoli from the two larger, coastal DOs of Bizkaiko Txakolina (Chacolí de Vizcaya) around Bilbao and Getariako Txakolina (Chacolí de Guetaria) near San Sebastián. (You can read about the whole trip here. Or scroll to the bottom of this page if you just want today's Txakoli recommendation.)

Winemaker Ana Martin Onzain and one of many views to die for in Bodegas Astobiza's vineyards

Having looked at Astobiza’s vineyards and gazed at the fabulous views with winemaker Ana Martin Onzain, I stepped into the winery and came face to face with concrete fermentation eggs and new Seguin Moreau French oak barrels, as well as the expected stainless steel. I tasted, among others, a complex 2015 Txakoli, called Malkoa, that had been fermented in the concrete eggs, aged on its lees for 6–7 months, then bottle-aged and was due for release early this year. I also tasted a late-harvest sweet wine made from Izkiriota Haundia that had the honeyed citrus and apricot intensity and tight-wire freshness of Jurançon – not so surprising when you know that Izkiriota Haundia is better known as Gros Manseng.

The only disappointment was getting back to the UK and not being able to find any of Astobiza’s wines. Disappointment over: The Daily Drinker has one and it's delicious. It’s made from Hondarribi Zuri, which Astobiza say is Courbu Blanc. I don't doubt them, but it's worth knowing that the name Hondarribi Zuri is also used sometimes for both Crouchen and Noah in Txakoli vineyards. (Grape varieties and spellings are an endless source of confusion in the region).

Bodegas Astobiza Txakolí Gorabie 2016, Arabako Txakolina, Spain

Smoky green freshness and intensity, with a hint of soy sauce to the smokiness, lots of pithy, ripe pink-grapefruit flavour, weight (13% abv), length and a salty, citrus freshness.

£13.50, The Daily Drinker, or £12.15, The Daily Drinker club members’ price

Identity parade and spelling nightmare: the list (right) of Txakoli grape varieties and their synonyms that I was given at Bodegas Astobiza

Photographs by Joanna Simon

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