D.O. Bizcaiko Txacolina

The truth is that for many centuries, nobody gave txakolí wine serious consideration, and very few mourned its disappearance. Compared to powerful wines with a higher alcohol content, txakolí was considered a ‘little’ local wine (‘vinillo’) of little interest. For a long time, a wine’s alcohol content was its only introduction. There were periods where still very poor production methods had not allowed the varieties to speak for themselves, and what’s more, txakolí forms part of a family economy at the same home-grown level as meat, milk and fish. In addition, the txacolí industry has not been advanced or prepared enough to rigorously produce this small oenological joy until the last few decades.

Vineyards have existed in Bizkaia for thousands of years. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, viticulture was based on self-sufficiency and local consumption, then during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, they started to regulate and protect local wines, with the earliest documented reference appearing in a document from 1616 as ‘vino chacolin’. In the fourteenth century, the town of Lekeitio granted tax exemptions for the use of wood to install trellises, and Guillermo Humboldt, who wrote about a journey to the Basque Country in 1801, referred to a wine produced in this region called Bilbao wine, observing that it was excellent and as well made as French wines from Champagne and Moselle. In 1850, Lekeitio’s txakolí production was greater than that of both Vizcaya and Guetaria put together, and historically, the region of Balmaseda produced red wine, but it currently produces mainly white, and has even surpassed Bakio in the bottling of txakolí. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a large portion of the 3000 hectares of registered vineyards in 1891 were destroyed due to the competition of foreign wines and industrialisation, as well as the phylloxera plague. Despite this troubled landscape, at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, txakolí experienced one of its greatest moments of splendour when the ‘chacolines’ appeared, taverns built for the exclusive sale of txakolí, often served with cod, squid and eel in a friendly and popular environment.


Halfway through 1980, a small group of producers drove the restoration of the vineyards and the improvements in txakolí production in Bizkaia, for which it was awarded the DO Txakolí de Bizkaia – Bizkaiko Txakolina in 1994. This award involved another considerable increase in the number of vineyards. The DO Bizkaiko Txakolina is in Cantabria in the north of Spain, to the east and west of Bilbao (or Bilbo), the capital of the region, with 300 hectares of vineyards situated along the coast and spread across 82 towns in the Vizcaya region. They are small plantations, many cultivated traditionally around traditional Basque farmhouses, and centred in the regions of Baquio (or Bakio) and Balmaseda (or Balmaceda), where almost 200 wine producers and 42 producing wineries are located.


According to Dr. Juan Uruñuela, the meaning of ‘Txakolí’, as we know it today, is ‘village wine’ or ‘wine made in the village’, which is derived from the Basque ‘etxakoa’ (made at home) and its evolution to ‘etxakon’, which led to the word ‘txakon’, and eventually ‘txakolin’ or ‘chacolin’.


Climate, Soil and Varieties.


The climate is Atlantic, wet and temperate. Although this area is not very bright due to the clouds and condensation, the vineyard is better exposed to the sun for being situated on plots with special orientation. The mild temperatures in summer favour a slow ripening of the grapes, thanks to the regulatory effect of the sea. Rainfall is between 1000 and 1300mm, with plenty of rain in the winter, spring and part of autumn. At the beginning of autumn, the first Atlantic storms approach the Iberian Peninsula, creating wet and temperate south-westerly winds. In the northern Cantabrian slopes, these winds generate a dry, warm climate as a result of the Föehn effect, producing ideal conditions to appropriately ripen the grapes before the harvest.


The soil is varied, being shallow in general, slightly acidic with a clayey texture, on limestone and loam rocks. Five different areas can be distinguished here:


Encartaciones – Margen Izquierda. It is the most western region in Bizkaia. It has very little industry and an important presence in the agricultural sector. It has a mountainous terrain with deep valleys and a more extreme climate than the average in Bizkaia, with varied countryside made up of forests, fields and farms. There are multiple towns with a significant history of txakolí production, among which we would highlight Zalla, Galdames, Muskiz and Balmaseda.


Uribe. This region is situated to the north of Bilbao. It contains areas of industrial development, as well as residential and agricultural areas. It is perhaps the region with the largest expanse of agricultural soil, which means a smoother orography and a more benign climate, facilitating a larger expanse of vineyards and a larger number of wineries. The most famous towns in the world of txakolí are Bakio, Gatika, Gamiz – Fika, or those situated in the renowned Txori Herri valley (Lezama, Larrabetzu, Zamudio, Derio, Sondika).


Urdaibai. Its status as a Biosphere Reserve makes this a very special place. Administratively, it belongs to the Busturialdea region. It is a natural estuary of great ecological value governed by strict environmental protection regulations, which guarantee the survival of the natural environment. The vineyards and the wineries have to respect nature and their surroundings, abiding by the rules to that effect. The vineyards are spread across the entire area in small plots. Gernika, Muxika, Busturia and Kortezubi have important wineries.


Lea – Artibai. It is the most western coastal region. It is named after the two most important rivers running through the region, the Lea, which flows into Lekeitio, and the Artibai, which runs through Ondárroa. It is a mountainous region with lots of forests and few urban areas. The towns with productive wineries include Markina – Xemein, Mendexa, Ondarroa and Ibarrangelu.


Nervión. This area spans the land on the banks of the river of the same name, from the confluence with the Ibaizabal River, up to Orduña, practically at its source. It is an intensely industrialised area in the middle and lower reaches of the river, while in the upper areas, the rural environment dominates. In this area within Bizkaia, wineries can be found in the towns of Zaratamo, Orozko and Orduña.


Duranguesado. This region extends across the valley that forms the river Ibaizabal, from the boundary with Gipuzkoa to the town of Galdakao. It is cut off in the south by the Anboto Mountain, and to the north by the Oiz Mountain. It has an Atlantic climate, and being an inner valley, it experiences colder temperatures than the average in Bizkia. The main town is Durango. The wineries are spread out along the valley in Elorrio, Abadiño, Durango and Iurreta.


The white varieties authorised by the DO are the Hondarribi Zuri, as well as the Hondarribi Zuri Zerratia (Petit Courbu), Mune Mahatsa (Folle Blanche), Izkiriota (Gros Manseng), Izkiriota Ttippia (Petit Manseng), Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Chardonnay, while the red variety is Hondarribi Beltza. In Balmaseda and Baquio, they mainly make white txakolís, as well as some red and rosés, the latter also known as ‘ojo de gallo’. In the Baquio region, the red variety Hondarribi Beltza appears in significant proportions and occupies entire plots, however, the majority of the area’s new plantations are being made with white grapes.


Wines and Wineries.


White txakolí represents more than 95% of the total production of txakolí in the DO Bizkaiko-Txakolina, and it is mainly made with the two recommended white varieties, Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Zuri Zerratia. We can also find white txakolís fermented in barrels, which come from specific vineyards and are located in well-exposed plots. There are also rosé txakolís, traditionally called ‘ojo de gallo’, and the recommended red variety Hondarrabi Beltza makes up 50% of production. Red txakolís are much less common, made with the Hondarrabi Beltza and generally of young character, with a very noticeable, different personality, standing out for their intense primary aromas with notes of small fruit, green pepper and orchards.


Bodegas Itsasmendi was founded in 1994 in Muskiz, a town with hundreds of years of tradition producing txakolí. In 2002, due to the gradual increase in vineyard plantations, the winery was moved to Gernika. The new winery is one of the biggest in Vizcaya, and is equipped with the newest technology for making white wines. It centralises Itsasmendi’s wine-making production, spread out across the mountains of Vizcaya. The winery owns 27 hectares of its own vineyards, planted in stages with the Hondarribi Zuri variety from 1989 until 2003 on mountainous slopes near the gulf of Vizcaya, leading to the winery’s name, which means ‘mountain next to the sea’ in Castilian. Bodegas Itsasmendi is a clear example of a technological evolution exclusively destined for the continuous improvement of the quality of txakolí. Itsasmendi is especially known for its capacity for innovation regarding the production of white wines: theirs is the first young txakolí to be awarded with a bronze Bachuss. It was also the first txakolí winery to carry out a late harvest, the Itsasmendi Urezti, with Hondarribi Zuri Zerratie and a small percentage of Izkiriot Handi, and continue going to a lot of effort to produce products with a very personal stamp, for example, among others, the Itsasmendi N⁰7, with 65% Hondarribi Zuri Zerratie, 18% Riesling and 17% Hondarribi Zuri, as well as their Itsasmendi Eklipse, with Pinot Noir (75%), Hondarribi Beltza (25%) and a 10 month ageing in a 2000 litre French oak vat.


Bodega Iturrialde is the old Bion-Etxea winery, which founded Casilda Valpuesta in 1977, decisively choosing to promote Vizcayan txakolí. The winery markets its wines under the following brands: Aretxondo, Bion-Etxea Mahastia and Aretxondo Luberri Mahastia. In 2005, they took the significant leap to move from their facilities in Mungia to the new Larrabetzu factory, a project designed by the architect Iñaki Aspiazu. It has 25 hectares of vineyards and an area of 2000 m2, in which 52 tanks are located, with capacities between 10000 and 15000 litres. The wine-making complex is complemented with wine tourism, in which the Azurmendi restaurant stands out, as well as a distillery and a bar-shop with a product exhibition related to the DO Bizkaiko Txakolina.


Doniene Gorrondona Txakolina is the result of the evolution of one of the area’s typical farmhouses into the aforementioned winery. Therefore, this beautiful winery located in Bakio, on the shores of the Cantábrico and surrounded by lovely vineyards, is facing the challenge of professionally relaunching the traditional activity of producing taxakolí and adapting it to the current market requirements. For this reason, they have a young, technologically prepared team that has also succeeded in making a dynamic and welcoming meeting point to taste their txakolís and other typical products of the area, from meat to agricultural produce. In addition to their traditional txakolí production, which they have been carrying out in this farmhouse for centuries, just like in lots of other houses in Bakio, the young experts currently leading the winery constantly experiment with different possibilities of producing little known or investigated varieties. Their red wine, with a short time spent in the barrel, and their white wine fermented in barrels are the result of this curiosity. To make their wine, this young team, as well as owning the winery and carrying out their tasks personally, uses native grape varieties, new wine-making techniques, carries out low yield harvest selection and cold maceration, and they experiment with barrels made of different types of oak. In addition, the winery has widened its range of products with the construction of a distillery, where they make schnapps (aguardiente de orujo) and herbal schnapps (aguardiente de hierbas) in an artisanal way. Their range includes the Doniene labels (young white txakolí), Gorrondona (young white txakolí), Gorrondona Tinto (young red txakolí), Doniene fermentado en barrica (white txakolí fermented in the barrel) Gorrondona tinto criado en barrica (red txakolí), aguardiente de orujo Doniene (Doniene Schnapps) and aguardiente de hierbas Doniene (Doniene herbal Schnapps). 

Wineries belonging to the D.O Bizkaiko Txakolina:

Outstanding wines from the D.O. Bizkaiko Txakolina:

  • Marko Selección Especial 2015

    White wine Barrel. 3 months in oak barrels. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Oxer Bastegieta. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarribi Zuri and Petit Mansenq and Hondarrabi zuri zerratie.

    • Decántalo 91
    18,85 VAT incl.
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    17,75 €/u
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    Marko Selección Especial 2015

    White wine Barrel. 3 months in oak barrels. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Oxer Bastegieta. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarribi Zuri and Petit Mansenq and Hondarrabi zuri zerratie.

    • Decántalo: 91
    18,85 VAT incl.
    6x
    17,75 €/u
    Online only
  • Marko 2015

    White wine Young. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Oxer Bastegieta. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarribi Zuri.

    • Decántalo 90
    • Peñin 91
    10,50 VAT incl.
    6x
    9,45 €/u
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    Marko 2015

    White wine Young. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Oxer Bastegieta. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarribi Zuri.

    • Decántalo: 90
    • Peñin: 91
    10,50 VAT incl.
    6x
    9,45 €/u
    Online only
  • Urezti 2012

    Sweet wine Barrel. 3 months in French oak barrels. Volume: 3/8 37,5 cl Winery: Itsasmendi. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarrabi zuri zerratie.

    • Peñin 92
    15,90 VAT incl.
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    15,00 €/u
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    Urezti 2012

    Sweet wine Barrel. 3 months in French oak barrels. Volume: 3/8 37,5 cl Winery: Itsasmendi. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarrabi zuri zerratie.

    • Peñin: 92
    15,90 VAT incl.
    6x
    15,00 €/u
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  • Artizar 2012

    White wine Barrel. 8 months on lees in the barrel. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Itsasmendi. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarribi Zuri.

    35,95 VAT incl.
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    33,95 €/u
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    Artizar 2012

    White wine Barrel. 8 months on lees in the barrel. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Itsasmendi. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarribi Zuri.

    35,95 VAT incl.
    6x
    33,95 €/u
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  • Itsasmendi 7 2014

    White wine Barrel. 9 months on lees in stainless steel vats. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Itsasmendi. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarrabi zuri zerratie and Riesling.

    13,65 VAT incl.
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    12,95 €/u
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    Itsasmendi 7 2014

    White wine Barrel. 9 months on lees in stainless steel vats. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Itsasmendi. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarrabi zuri zerratie and Riesling.

    13,65 VAT incl.
    6x
    12,95 €/u
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  • Itsasmendi 7 Magnum 2013

    White wine Barrel. Volume: Magnum Winery: Itsasmendi. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina.

    Magnum 1,5l
    28,55 VAT incl.
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    27,10 €/u
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    Itsasmendi 7 Magnum 2013

    White wine Barrel. Volume: Magnum Winery: Itsasmendi. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina.

    Magnum 1,5l
    28,55 VAT incl.
    6x
    27,10 €/u
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  • Itsasmendi 2015

    White wine Young. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Itsasmendi. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarrabi zuri zerratie.

    9,45 VAT incl.
    6x
    8,95 €/u
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    Itsasmendi 2015

    White wine Young. Volume: 75 cl. Winery: Itsasmendi. Production area: Bizkaiko Txakolina. Grapes used in this wine: Hondarribi Zuri and Hondarrabi zuri zerratie.

    9,45 VAT incl.
    6x
    8,95 €/u
    Online only
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