Ah Urki. Some of you might remember that I wrote about a great afternoon I spent with Urki some time ago. I couldn’t believe my good fortune to actually visit the place where this dreamy liquid is produced. Many of the vineyards are close together, and just outside of Getaria. We drove around exploring a bit before arriving at Urki.
Clouds had covered the sky by this time, so we had no guilt or sadness about leaving the coast to go inside and have a tour of the winery. Cypress hedges divide sections of vines to protect them from the coastal wind.
You might be able to tell from this picture that the vines are trained differently here. While in France and other parts of Spain the vines are allowed to grow in a more bush-like formation, the grapes for Txacoli are trained to grow about five feet tall on stakes, vertically, and then are spread out across wires in between the tall stakes. My tour of Urki was conducted exclusively in Spanish, because the owner speaks Euskara dominantly and Spanish as a second language, so I understood bits and pieces, and a bit more with the aid of our co-tourers who were Spanish-speaking French (we had French in common). Through these somewhat complicated linguistic avenues I understood that Txacoli, a young wine that is aged for only a few months, needs a lot of sun as a grape in order to cultivate enough sugar to balance the natural acidity of a young wine [Wikipedia states “the grapes for this txakoli are grown according to the treille (or trellis) system (called parra in Basque) system. In this system the vines are cultivated at a greater height above the ground, with the foliage forming a continguous canopy to improve the microclimate”]. Many “Txacoli” producers add elements of sweeter grapes such as Chardonnay, Reisling, and Muscat, in order to increase the sugar content of Txacoli. But, it is essential to note that any wine that has any content of the aforementioned grapes is not authentic Txacoli. Txacoli is 100% Hondarrabbi-Zuri grapes.
This is an old house in the area I found on the way to Urki.
Above: the building at the end of the road ahead is the Urki winery.
These are the uvas of Urki. Some other wineries might use grapes from elsewhere, but Urki only uses the grapes they cultivate themselves. In the fall of each year (approximately October) Urki employs forty people for ten days to hand-harvest all of their grapes for that year’s vintage. The grapes are harvested and then pressed and processed by an impressive array of French machinery (the French and the Italians make higher quality winemaking machinery, typically, than do the Spanish). While I didn’t understand much about the machinery, I enjoyed taking some pictures.
In this relatively small row of eight tanks, all the Txacoli that Urki makes each year is aged.
It is currently late in the Txacoli season. The 2009 vintage is running low, and the 2010 is months away from completion (Getaria hosts an annual Txacoli festival for the first Txacolis of the season in January each year). But some Txacoli is kept in tank #5 for visitors, and we got to have some straight from the tap.
Urki’s Txacoli is 100% Hondarrabi-Zuri grapes. The effervencense in Txacoli is a natural occurence, which I understand is caused by the reaction of the sugar and acidity in the aging process. Many inauthentic Txacolis contain a greater appearance of frizzante, but this is caused by an artificial injection of CO2. It is the custom in Spain to pour Txacoli from a great height, thus increasing the aroma and frizzante qualities. Do not be fooled. If you are drinking authentic Txacoli, both effervecense and aroma will occur without your server pouring from a two or three foot height.
Visiting Urki was a truly special experience. Though this vineyard has only been in operation for two years, they have a clear devotion to the cultivation of a unique specialty from the Basque region. Muchimas gracias a Kristian para su ayuda y la visita.