Even though I was born and raised in Atlanta, I've never tolerated hot weather very well. I kept my childhood room as cold as a meat locker, and now as an adult, I seek out more grown-up ways to stay cool. Nothing snaps me out of my heat-induced stupor like a cold, zippy wine late in the haze of the day. This summer, my perfect refreshing wine has been Txakoli, the effervescent, bone-dry Basque white that makes an ideal toast to the last days of the season.
I discovered Txakoli (pronounced cha-co-lee) a few years ago during a meal at Mercat, a Barcelona-inspired Spanish restaurant in downtown New York City, where the bartender suggested I try it when I asked for something crisp and dry. To enhance its natural effervescence (it's not quite as bubbly as Champagne, but there's definitely fizz in there), the wine is traditionally poured with one hand holding the bottle far above your head, and the other hand holding the glass far below. A T-shaped spout helps aerate the wine even more, and brings the bubbles to life. Sitting at the bar at Mercat, I was amazed while watching my bartender pour, impressed that she let not a single drop fall to the floor.
Txakoli is typically light-colored, with a slightly green tinge and tiny little bubbles that stream to the top of the glass. Its flavor holds a slightly herbaceous and citric quality that I find exceptionally refreshing among white summer wines. The indigenous Spanish grapes Hondarribi Zuria and Hondarribi Beltza are the main varieties, giving Txakoli its particularly refreshing acidity and kick. There is a slight variety in styles depending on where in the Txakolina region the wine comes from (central wines are rounder; coastal wines are zestier), but they are all essentially refreshing bottles that pair well with most foods.
Itsas Mendi Bizkaiko Txakolina 2009 ($15)
Ameztoi Txakolina Rubentis 2010 ($19)
This Getariako region Ameztoi has a high level of acid and minerality, but it's rounded out by its red fruit characteristics. This is a lovely sipping wine with cheese or a savory watermelon salad on a day when it's just too hot to turn the oven on.
Txomin Etxaniz Getariako Txakolina 2010 ($25)
Luscious yet refreshing, this Getariako region wine has a mineral backbone that zips, and fruit that lingers. The juxtaposition of crispness with notes of melon means that this wine goes with just about anything—from fried chicken to marinated cantaloupe with basil — and is just delicious on its own.