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Basque, Spain

The Basque region in Spain is home to a number of native grape varieties that are used to produce unique and characterful wines. These grapes have been cultivated in the region for centuries and are closely tied to the culture and identity of the Basque people.

General Terroir & History

The history of winemaking in the Basque region dates back thousands of years. The region has a long tradition of cultivating grapes and producing wine, and the ancient Romans were among the first to document the wine production of the area. The region is bounded by the Bay of Biscay to the north and the autonomous communities of Navarra to the east, La Rioja to the south, and Cantabria to the west. 

The Basque region is home to a number of smaller, artisanal winemakers who produce unique and high-quality wines using traditional methods. These winemakers often use native grape varieties, such as Hondarribi Zuri, to create distinctive and characterful wines called Txakoli, 

In recent years, the Basque region has gained a reputation as a hub for experimental and innovative winemaking, with many winemakers using natural and organic methods to create unique and expressive wines. The region is home to a number of natural wine producers who use minimal intervention in the winemaking process, allowing the grapes and the terroir to speak for themselves.

Major Wine Varietals & Styles

The native style of while wine from the Basque region is Txakoli. A large majority of Txakoli wines are white, with some rare red wines.  Txakoli white wines are light and refreshing, with flavors of green apple and pear. Due to the minerality in the wines, as well as traditional winemaking techniques, the wines are often slightly effervescent. They are often served as an aperitif and are well-suited to pairing with seafood.

One of the most famous native grape varieties from the Basque region is Hondarribi Zuri, which is primarily grown in the province of Biscay. And now many producers are beginning to make a rosé Txakoli wine, typically made from the white Hondarrabi Zuri and the red Hondarrabi Beltza grape.

In addition to Hondarribi Zuri, the Basque region is also home to a number of other native grape varieties that are used to produce a wide range of wines. These include:

  • Gros Manseng: This grape is primarily grown in the province of Navarre and is used to produce white wines that are rich and full-bodied, with flavors of tropical fruit and citrus.

  • Petit Courbu: This grape is primarily grown in the province of Gipuzkoa and is used to produce white wines that are floral and aromatic, with flavors of stone fruit and citrus.

  • Petit Manseng: This grape is primarily grown in the province of Navarre and is used to produce white wines that are rich and complex, with flavors of tropical fruit and honey.

  • Tannat: This grape is primarily grown in the province of Gipuzkoa and is used to produce full-bodied and tannic red wines that are rich in flavor and have a long finish.

 Major Regions / Sub-Regions

Other than Txakoli, which is the traditional Basque wine grown in 3 DOs in Basque Country, there are red wines grown in Rioja Alavesa, a sub-region of Rioja.

Txakolina de Getariako DO

The wine produced here is a young, straw-colored, fruity wine. It is slightly acidic with an average alcohol content of 10.5%. The Ondarribi Zuri grape is used for the majority of white wine production (80 - 90%) while the Ondarribi Beltza grape is used for the rest of the region's wine production, which is rosé and red wines. An unusual characteristic of Txakoli wine production here is that the wine is left to rest on its lees (the residual yeast) and is not moved, in order to ensure a slightly carbonated wine. The average annual production in the Denomination of Origin is about 2 million bottles.

Txakolina de Arabako DO

Located in the Alava province, it is the youngest DO in Basque Country Wine Region. In the south of Alava province, there are also parts of the vineyards that produce Rioja wines. When Txakoli vineyards are located in the north. DO Txakolina Arabaco has 9.5% of alcohol and mainly uses Hondarribi Zuri, Gross Manseng, Petit Manseng, and Petit Corbu grape varieties in whites, and Hondarribi Beltza in red wine production.

Txakolina de Bizkaiko DO

Grown in small vineyards scattered throughout the territory of Bizkaia (Vizcaya in Spanish), usually situated on low, southern-facing hillsides near the coast. It is a young wine, made with the white Ondarrabi Zuri and Ondarrabi Zuri Zerratia, and the Mune Mahatsa. The average annual production is 1,200,000 bottles. An unusual and difficult-to-find red Txakoli is produced here, has pinkish tones, and is known as "Ojo Gallo."

Rioja Alavesa DOCa

A sub zone of DOCa Rioja, it's vineyards are in south of the Basque Country. The vineyards are planted right on the shore of the Ebro river, at 1150-1600 feet of altitude where they benefit from many hours of sun exposure. Around 80% of the plantation is composed of Tempranillo grape, with another 4% dedicated to red grapes and the rest to several varieties of white grape.

In Conclusion

Overall, the native grape varieties of the Basque region are an important part of the region's winemaking tradition and contribute to the diversity and character of the wines produced there. These grapes, along with the region's unique climate and soil conditions, help to make the wines of the Basque region some of the most distinctive and sought-after in Spain.

Tags: Region