Hondarrabi has 2 distinct versions, a white (Zuri) and a red (Beltza) grape. Both are indigenous to the Basque region of northern Spain, but Zuri is substantially more common. Both grapes are the primary grapes used in the production of Txakoli (cha-co-li) wines, the customary wine from this region. By law, these wines must contain a minimum of 80% Zuri, with the remaining portion composed of a combination of other white grapes grown in the region (Gross Manseng, Petit Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, etc. depending on the subregion the wine comes from). In its most common form, it presents as a dry white wine, often exhibiting a slight sparkling nature, with high acid and low levels of alcohol. Txakoli can also be a rosé or red wine. While these used to be the most common, white versions have overtaken them and now they account for only about 2% of the wines. These are made with the Beltza variety, which has similar characteristics to Cabernet Franc.
This week, I chose a 2019 Txakoli rosé composed of 80% Beltza and 20% Zuri from the family owned winery, Rezabal, located in the Getariako Txakolina DOC. The Basque region is divided into 3 provinces, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and Araba. Each of these has its own recognized area for Txakoli. Getariako was the first to earn its DOC designation and is the name for the area in Gipuzkoa. When I pulled the bottle from my rack, I couldn’t help but notice the color was more of a peachy salmon than the light pink color I was more accustomed to. I did also notice some sediment that had collected at the bottom of the bottle so it was likely this bottle had changed color slightly over time and some of the small amount of tannin it did contain, had precipitated out of solution. This is quite common in older red wines and one of the reasons to decant wine. While this wine wasn’t older, it had been sitting for quite some time. This sediment does not affect the quality of the wine. When I uncorked the bottle, the slight petulance was also noticeable. In the glass, faint lines of bubbles rose up from the bottom, gently bursting at the surface. I over-chilled my bottle (it’s been warm for the Pacific Northwest region this week) so detecting the aromatics was quite difficult. The first one I did catch was a jalapeno pepper, which was quite surprising. It was followed with ripe peaches, strawberries, grapefruit and wet slate. This was completely different than any rosé I’d ever had. One the palate, the baby bubbles tickled by tongue as the wine swept over my tongue. It was dry with a refreshing amount of acid, medium body, and low in alcohol. Those same green bell pepper/jalapeno notes were prominent when I tasted it as well. They overshadowed the much fainter fresh fruit notes that trailed behind. The pepper notes I have mentioned are grouped together in a category of aromas called Pyrazines. They’re vegetal in nature and commonly occur in Bordeaux grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc (a parent grape to Beltza), Carmenere (now mostly found in Chile), and Sauvignon Blanc, just to name a few. While some find these compounds to add character and complexity to wines, some call them faults (or imperfections). Generally speaking, the presence of Pyrazines can be a sign of under ripe grapes or grapes from cooler regions and vintages being used in the production of the wine. Overall, they definitely detracted from the more subtle flavor components in this wine. I’d be curious to try another vintage to see if the pyrazines were less overt.