In preparation for the annual Reno Txakoli festival held at Craft, I thought I would warm-up by sharing my own Chacolí adventure.
My name is Kerri Lesh and I’m the newest student at the Center for Basque Studies. I arrived this spring semester with a focus on sociolinguistics, as well as on aspects of cultural maintenance among Basques. My first contact with Basque culture would have been in high school while staying with a family in a town called Herrera de los Navarros in Aragon. It was during a trip to the neighboring city of Zaragoza in which I learned about their desire to be independent from the rest of Spain. Throughout my undergraduate education I revisited my interest in Basque culture by reading up on it through books such as Paddy Woodworth’s The Basque Country. However, it wasn’t until I was working around wine that I learned about Txakolina (the Basque term). I soon became obsessed with this tangible (and very drinkable) representation of Basque Culture. It provided me a piece of the culture at a time when I wasn’t able to travel the distance.
As part of my desire to learn more about wine-making, I decided to spend some time in Chile and become familiar with the process during harvest time. During my time there, I read about the Basque diaspora and the culture that migrants brought with them to South America. In the process of researching Chilean history, I happened to come across a book mentioning the local production of an alcoholic beverage called chacolí, and eventually I found a small town that apparently still made it! I rounded up a few coworkers (who had no knowledge of what chacolí was!) and we headed to Doñihue, a small town just outside of Rancagua, Chile.
Once we arrived to Doñihue, we found Viña el Boldo which was one of the few wineries that made chacolí. As we opened the bottle and poured ourselves the first glass, we noticed the color and clarity were different than I had mentioned. The color looked most similar to a rosé, and didn’t seem to be filtered. Tasting it was even more surprising as I was expecting something acidic and tart. However, it tasted fruitier, with with much more body than any Spanish Txakolina I had every tasted. Not knowing what to think, we decided to take the advice of some of the locals and visit a couple local artisans who apparently produced the wine in their homes. We soon found the two main producers of the area who were eager to introduce us to their families, animals, and their own versions of chacolí. Starting to grasp that this chacolí was very different from that made in the Basque Country, I asked what grapes they used. There were a few varietals mentioned, most of which were torontel and muscatel-different than the Hondarribi zuri or beltza used in Txakolina from the Basque Country.
I left Doñihue a bit uncertain of the relationship between Txakoli from the Basque Country and chacolí from Chile. However, I was happy to have found what might be a remnant of Basque diaspora in South America. I have since taken advantage of the library here at the Center for Basque Studies to learn more about the history of this beverage. I look forward to connecting the dots of what might be a link between the Basque culture of Spain and South America.
So for more information on Txakolina, stayed tuned for as we gear up for Craft’s Txakolina Festival coming soon!
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