Txakoli Fest 2012

Attendees of Central Bottle's Txacoli Fest 2012 (All photos: Katie White)

Txakoli (pronounced chah-ko-lee) is a bone-dry, effervescent white or rose wine from the Basque Country of northern Spain. The Basque people, fiercely proud of their heritage, celebrate this local libation each summer at festivals that include pinxtos (pinches) — small appetizers that complement and soak up the alcohol.

“The good news,” Chef Robert Grant of the blue room told me last Thursday evening at his restaurant’s own Cambridge-style Txakoli Fest, supplied and co-hosted by Central Bottle, “is that these wines pair well with almost anything.”

Grilled octopus with lemon aioli

Roasted pig's head

For ticket-holders to Txakoli Fest ($45 in advance, $60 at the door), Grant and his team fired up the blue room’s outdoor grill to serve roast pig (via Savenor’s), sweet calçot (young green onion) with creamy romesco sauce, homemade blood sausage and Spanish octopus with lemon aioli. The octopus, Grant explained, is flash-frozen on the boats in Spain and shipped to Brooklyn, where his importer tenderizes the meat by running it through a washing machine fed a saltwater brine. ¡Qué rico! In addition, passed appetizers included bites of Spanish tortilla and black-and-white anchovies.

Txacoli Lineup

The open bar tasting table included five types of Txakoli from three producing regions: Xarmant Arabako 2011, Ameztoi Getaraiko 2011, Ameztoi Getaraiko Rose 2011, Gurrutxaga Bizkaiko 2010 and Uriondo Bizkaiko 2012. Central Bottle also threw in a Basque cider, Isastegi Sagardo Natura 2011, at the end. Despite teeth-grinding titles, the wines were perfect summer spritzers.

Ameztoi Getaraiko Rose 2011

My favorite was the Rose — light and devilishly pink, with a hint of fruit. My favorite duo was the warm, salty anchovies with cool, fizzy Ameztoi Getaraiko — like sweet mouthfuls of the Spanish sea.

The day dimmed, and porrón appeared. Porrón is a traditional glass wine pitcher with an open top for oxygen to flow in and a small spout for wine to flow out. The lucky (reckless?) drinker begins by holding the porrón close to his mouth, then reaching it higher and higher, forcing the wine to wake up as it cascades through the air. (This author was unfortunately not as artful as our guest below and ended up washing her face in txacoli instead of consuming it.)


In defiance of rain and in advance celebration of long summer evenings-to-come, I plan to drink as much txakoli as I can afford this week. Varieties available at Central Bottle in Central Square, Cambridge. Look to Central Bottle’s owner, Liz Vilardi, for advice.