23 November 2010
A common misconception, when I drag tired friends from bar to random bar in a foreign city, is that I'm searching for The Best Wines. Usually I'm too busy urging everyone onwards and researching other addresses to even begin to clarify that greatness isn't what I'm after - that all I'm after is typicity*: something that speaks of a particular area or a culture.
So while killing time before my friend E's art opening this past weekend in Madrid, I was quite thrilled to have several healthy glasses of random fizzy Txakolina at Lamiak in the La Latina neighborhood. (Admittedly much of my good mood may have derived from watching the bartenders.)
Txakoli or Txakolina (the confusing bit of both words is pronounced roughly like "choco," as in "choco-taco") is a low-alcohol Basque country wine, mostly greenish-white, of almost zero connoisseur's interest. I mean this in the best possible way. Based on the local Hondarabi Zuri grape, it's generally mass-produced in steel-tanks and the quality amplitude, the difference between the best and worst, is relatively slim. Ideally you see it poured from shoulder height into glassware that sort of recalls little flowerpots.
It's true there are marginal amounts of rosés and reds produced from other fringe grapes, and some artisanal producers do exist in the three Txakoli denominations. But for the moment (and in the moment), I prefer the glorious spritzy thoughtless stuff, whatever the bar has, as long as it's the right bar. The dirt-cheap Txakolina by Aizpurua I had the other day was tart, briney, and ringingly citric - the oenological equivalent of the insane vocal sample in Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair."
Totally without complexity, and all the more enjoyable for it.
*The adjective "typical" in English has unfortunate connotations of mundanity or frustration (cf. Basil Fawlty) that prevent it from expressing quite what it does in the various romance languages.
42 Calle Cava Baja
Metro: La Latina
Tel: +34 91 365 52 12
Eric Asimov on Txakolina in the NYTimes
Eric Asimov on Txakolina in his NYTimes blog