If wines walked the red carpet, the Basque wine known as Txakoli (CHAC-o-lee) would no longer be a blushing ingénue. It’s now a polished starlet, juggling paparazzi without batting an eyelash. Just a few years ago, Txakoli was an obscure curiosity. The wine is very high in acidity, which accounts for its slight sparkle, and low in alcohol. A simple wine, typically white and slightly fizzy, it was served in low tumblers, often poured from a great height. The wine is customarily poured in
ceremonious fashion with the bottle or a porrón (a traditional wine carafe from Northern Spain) held high above the glass causing something of a waterfall of wine. This fancy effect is said to make the flavors of the wine burst out instantaneously. In any case, it takes a dexterous bartender to pull this off so don’t expect this type of treatment except for in the most traditional of Spanish wine bars. Txokoli is the perfect fit for Spain’s native foods, often served in tapas bars that fill the streets of Bilbao and San Sebastian in Northern Spain.
I was first introduced to the wonders of Txakoli whilst living in Spain for two years, before I came to Chicago. It was two years spent delving into the true history and culture of Spanish cuisine and its wine. To have Txakoli in its natural habitat is to behold a certain wine nirvana. You can almost taste the history in every glass. Upon my return to the U.S.A., I was quite surprised to find Txakoli, albeit in very small doses, in some boutique wine stores. It is not often one can see examples of Txakoli en masse and in one place, at least in Chicago. I was however, fortunate enough to find just that. Chicago has developed into a rather important place in the world of Txakoli, and has begun hosting a Txakoli Fest every year. Steven Alexander of De Maison Selections, arguably one of the most important importers and distributors of Spanish wine in the U.S. and one of the foremost brains in the Spanish Wine world, has a passion for Txakoli. It was this love and knowledge that inspired Alexander and De Maison to hold a Spanish Wine tasting and preview this month at one of Chicago’s newest Spanish eateries, Vera. It was the perfect place to sample some small plates prepared by Chef Mark Mendez and some hard to find tipples.