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  • Julia Harding MW
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  • Julia Harding MW
22 Nov 2013


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Just outside Bilbão, high above the main road and conveniently 15 minutes from the airport, is Bodega Gorka Izagirre, a newish and enthusiastically patriotic Biscayan wine producer named after the owner and funded by a logistics business that is undoubtedly more profitable than the wine business. The latter has 'massive investment' written all over it - in the vineyards, modern winery and associated three-star restaurant Azurmendi. The Izagirre ideology is founded on the desire to preserve and promote Txakoli, an integral part of the local culture and tradition, not just the name of a wine. (The Castilian spelling Chacoli gives a better impression of how the name should be pronounced; Txakoli is the Basque spelling.)

Gorka_IzagirreYou can find out more about this operation, and the varieties they have planted, in Recuperating Txacoli. In the meantime, I'd like to recommend this particular wine as an excellent introduction to the best wines of Biscay: cool, refined and persistent, marked by a restraint and freshness that comes from a region heavily influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and refreshed by as much rain as falls in the UK city of Manchester. If you have ever been to a bar or restaurant in Bilbão, San Sebastian or anywhere along the Bay of Biscay, you will probably have been poured a tumblerful of local white wine, Txakoli, but Gorka Izagirre is vastly superior to what is often a watery and rather neutral beverage.

It's a blend of equal parts of two local varieties, Hondarribi* Zuri (Courbu Blanc) and Hondarribi Zerratia (Petit Courbu), aged on the lees but with no oak influence. When I tasted it in the vineyard with Bertol Izagirre, son of the owner (on the left in the photo above), and winemaker José Ramón Calvo (above, on the right) on a sunny October morning, I described it as pale in colour, with a 'delicate aroma - some hay and citrus and a touch of spring blossom and apple; with time, a hint of wood (trees rather than oak)'. It was mouthwatering, zesty, beautifully taut, super dry, super fresh and very long, with a moderate 12.5% alcohol.

In the United States, the dry wine is readily available on line from K&D Wines and Spirits and Union Square Wines and Spirits in New York. Gorka Izagirre wines are imported into the UK by Boutinot, who tell me that this dry Txakoli is available from D Byrne & Co, Hanging Ditch, Mounts Bay Wine, Taylors of Tickhill and Vinomondo.

The Gorka Izagirre range of four whites also includes the delicious, barrel-fermented late-harvest Arima (made exclusively from Hondarribi Zerratia), the 2010 vintage of which is available in the UK from D Byrne & Co, Hanging Ditch, Highbury Vintners, Noel Young Wines and The Jolly Vintner and also from K&D Wines and Spirits in the US.

And one or both of these wines can also be found in Belgium (Wijnhuis Tinto), Japan (Kyobashi Wine and Liquor Shop), in several top restaurants in Mexico, at the Azurmendi restaurant just outside Bilbao and the soon-to be-opened Aziamendi restaurant in Thailand (more of which next week). Click on Find this wine for links to these stockists.

* Hondarribi is spelt in many different ways, including Hondarrabi and Ondarrabi.

From €9.40, $15.99, £12.29

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