Txakoli (pronounced [tʃakoˈli]) or Chacolí (pronounced [tʃakoˈli]) is a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content produced in the Spanish provinces of the Basque Country, Cantabria and northern Burgos. Further afield, Chile is also a minor producer of chacolí.
It is normally served as an aperitif and drunk within one year of bottling as it cannot be stored for longer. The most common, white, variety has a pale green colour, but there are red and rosé varieties. When served, it is normally poured into tall glasses from a height, often as an accompaniment to pintxos today. It typically has between 9.5-11.5 ABV.
The 18th century Palace of Mendibile in Leioa near Bilbao today houses a museum dedicated to txakoli, the Museo del Txakoli, explaining the history of txakoli and with a large collection of machinery used for making it.
This wine is called txakolin (pronounced [tʃakolin]) in Basque, txakolina meaning "the txakolin". The term is attested from the middle of the 18th century onwards, occasionally also as a personal name. Traditionally the general form has been txakolin, although xakolin has been documented in Iparralde. Txakoli, considered a misspelling by the Euskaltzaindia, is attested from 1985 onwards. Derived forms are based on the root txakolin, for example txakolin-ardo (txakoli wine), txakolin-dantza (txakoli dance), txakolin-saltze (txakoli sale), txakolin gorri (red txakoli) or txakolin-etxe (txakoli house).
This wine is called chacolí (pronounced [tʃakoˈli]) in Spanish, a word that comes from the Basque txakolin. The first reference to the name of this wine in Spanish was vino chacolín in a document from the Basque Country in 1520. The wine is occasionally called chacoli in French.
Most authors assume a Basque origin but the origin of the word is ultimately unknown, except for the ending -in which frequently occurs in liquids (cf ozpin "vinegar", pitipin or txuzpin "watered wines"), the word is obscure.
Amongst the more fanciful attempts at derivation is a suggested origin from etxeko ain (just enough for the home). Others opt for a French origin as it initially appeared as a term to identify French wines in villages of eastern Gipuzkoa. There are also authors who suggest a Spanish origin of the term.
Until the 1980s, txakoli was a home-made wine, drunk in the Basque Country, Cantabria and Valle de Mena, and almost in danger of dying out towards the middle of the 19th century. However, since some varieties of txakoli in the Basque Country managed to achieve Denominación de Origen certification from 1989 onwards, its quality, spread and appeal have increased.
Most txakoli is grown in the Atlantic regions of the Basque Country, areas with high rainfall (between 1000 mm and 1600 mm of annual rainfall on average) and average temperatures between 7.5 °C and 18.7 °C, occasionally suffering from frost.
Txakoli from Getaria
Getariako Txakolina in Basque, Chacolí de Guetaria in Spanish. This variety comes from a small region in Gipuzkoa around the towns of Getaria, Zarautz and Aia and is of a very pale yellow to green color. This was the first variety of txakoli to receive the DO certification in 1989.
The cultivated area has increased from 60 ha to 177 ha since certification. Annually some 900,000 litres are produced in this area, mostly on south-east facing slopes to protect the vines from the harsh Atlantic weather. Unlike the other varieties which are grown as most varieties of grapes, the grapes for this txakoli are grown according to the treille or trellis system (called parra in Basque). In this system, the vines are cultivated at a greater height above the ground, with the foliage forming a contiguous canopy to improve the microclimate. The white variety used is Hondarribi Zuria, the red grape is Hondarribi Beltza.
In recent years, other towns in Gipuzkoa have also started producing txakoli under this DO certification, including Orio, Zumaia, Arrasate, Eibar, Mutriku, Deba, Zestoa, Hondarribia, Villabona, Urnieta, Oñati, Beizama, Zerain and Olaberria.
Txakoli from Biscay
Bizkaiko Txakolina in Basque, Chacolí de Vizcaya in Spanish. This variety is made in most parts of Biscay, except for the far western end. This was the second txakoli to receive the DO certification in 1994.
It is grown on approximately 150 ha by 85 villages and towns throughout Biscay, producing some 700,000 litres of txakoli annually. Records of wine making in this region go back to the 8th century and references to txakoli go back several centuries themselves. The quality of the txakoli varies, as the microclimatic conditions vary.
Both white and red grapes are used for making txakoli in Biscay. White varieties are Hondarribi Zuria and Folle blanche (called Munemahatsa in Biscay); the red variety used is Hondarribi Beltza ("black Hondarribia").
Historically another light red variety called Oilar Begi ("chicken eye") was also used. This variety had almost become extinct and is making a slow comeback.
Txakoli from Alava
Arabako Txakolina in Basque, Chacolí de Álava in Spanish. This variety comes from the far north-western end of Álava. It is the youngest of the three DO varieties of txakoli, having gained certification in 2001. It is yellowish in color, very acidic and slightly frothy.
It is grown over some 55 ha of land around the towns of Aiara, Amurrio, Artziniega, Laudio and Okondo. Wine-making has a long tradition in this region, going back as far as 760 AD in the historical record. In the late 19th century, grapes were grown on more than 500 ha of land, declining to 5ha in the late 20th century before the recent revival.
The most commonly used grape for this txakoli is Hondarribi Zuria ("white Hondarribia") but other grapes are also permitted: Bordeleza Zuria (Folle Blanche), Izkiriota Ttipia (Petit Manseng), Izkiriota (Gros Manseng) and Courbu.
Chacolí, in the original common French, Spanish and Basque spelling chacoli, was traditional also in the region of Cantabria until the end of the 19th century. Great amounts of wine were consumed and exported from the 13th to the 19th century, produced in the comarca of Trasmiera, with villages including Colindres, Arnuero, Meruelo, Argoños and Noja as the main vineyards and production areas of chacolí. The production of wine in Cantabria, even in the middle of the 20th century, far exceeded that of the Basque provinces. In Cantabria there are two wine geographical indications (one step below the DO) created in 2004 and 2005: Liébana wine and Costa de Cantabria wine. The Cantabrian region where the wine was called chacolí is included in the Costa de Cantabria wine GI. Chacolí is still produced in Cantabria, but on a very limited scale.
Chacolí from Burgos
- Entry for "chacolí" in the Diccionario de la Lengua Española.
- Entry for "txakolin" in the Hiztegi Batua.
- Entry for "txakolin" in the Orotariko Euskal Hiztegia.
- «Lehen txakolin ardoa, orain txakolina», Euskonews & Media, 461. zenbakia, 2008-11-14.
- Peuchet, J. Dictionaire Universel de la Géographie Commerçante (1799-1800) Paris
- Azkue, RM Diccionario Vasco-Español-Francés 1905
- Mikel Corcuera, Manolo González, Pedro J. Moreno. Chacoli/ Txakolina. Dept. of Education Office of Education, 2010, p. 156-157.
- Facaros, D & Pauls, M Bilbao and the Basque Lands Cadoganguides 2003
- Barreda, Fernando (1947 1st reprint 2001). El chacolí santanderino en los siglos XIII al XIX. Santander: Editorial Maxtor Librería. ISBN 84-95636-84-0.
- Arazi. "Getariako txakolina". Regulatory Council of the Denomination of Origin Getariako Txakolina. Retrieved 6 June 2012.
- Garaizabal Pildain, M. Euskal Herriko Ardoak Ardoxka Gastronomi Elkartea 2002
- Huetz de Lemps, Alain (1967). Vignobles et vins du Nord-Ouest de l'Espagne. Bordeaux: Féret et Fils ed. p. 1005.
- "El chacolí del burgalés Valle de Mena quiere DO". elmundo.es. 2005. Retrieved 19 January 2008.