Tag: chile

Kerri Lesh talks “Txakolina” on Academic Minute and NPR podcast

Just before the Thanksgiving weekend on November 20th, Academic Minute featured a series of pieces about various drinks, to include beer and caffeinated beverages. Among the academics featured, Kerri Lesh presented on Txakolina–“a hard to define wine.”

As a cultural and linguistic anthropologist and Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), Kerri’s research examines the use of the Basque language, Euskara, in the creation of value for marketing local gastronomic products.  Her dissertation, divided into chapters on various Basque beverages, analyzes how each product distinctly functions in various markets when using Euskara to promote it.  One of her chapters looks at the various ways in which the traditional Basque wine, txakolina, is advertised and commodified to create value for the product as well as the Basque language.

Her piece that is featured can be found here on Academic Minute and on NPR’s podcast, discusses the uniqueness of this locally produced Basque wine, and the uncharacteristic ways in how it is defined. Aside from her love of food and wine, the aim for Kerri’s dissertation is to demonstrate ways in which value is created for the Basque language in contribution to language normalization.

Kerri plans to defend her dissertation this upcoming May, and to teach a course during the first session of summer titled “Consuming Identities: Food and Drink as Cultural Heritage.”


Basques abroad

It is hard to believe I am finally here in the Basque Country.  I’m tempted to say that I’ve waited a long time to get here to Euskalherria to start my fieldwork, but that wouldn’t be a completely accurate statement.  I could even say with some certainty that this year’s work and life in the Basque Country will represent both a reduction and culmination of my life’s interests and experiences, however, that would be limiting to the extensions of those same interests which lead me here:  languages, culture, wine, travel, food, diversity, and making connections with people around the world.  So, before sharing the amazing experiences I’ve already had while studying here, I would like to highlight those which were had before my arrival to the Basque Country this January.

Knowing I would be conducting fieldwork here for a whole year, I wanted to take advantage of the time and opportunity to travel to South America with my father.  In 2014, I spent an amazing time learning about the production and wine-making process in Casablanca, Chile.  With so much Basque heritage there, I was delighted to discover that the Basque diaspora still held its roots firmly planted in this South American country.  Finding the popular Basque wine called Chacoli was an adventure I won’t forget (see previous blog to read more about Chacoli in South America), discovering the ways in which a culture can change and be maintained across the globe.  But before returning to Chile, my dad and I checked out some Basque culture in Argentina.

I had come to know of a Basque restaurant from a man who had wandered into the Center for Basque Studies  before my departure.  He told me about his family and how one of them had started a restaurant in Buenos Aires.  I mentioned I’d be heading there soon, so he gave me the information to find Leiketio.  The food and drink which combined aspects of both Basque and Latin American cuisine were amazing. However, the most satisfying part of the meal was being able to use the little Basque I had acquired from the previous summer to speak to a server who had recently moved from the Basque Country.

My second encounter with Basque culture in South America happened after my dad had returned to the US, and I had moved on for my second visit to Chile.  I was in the beautiful, historic town of Valparaiso, listening to music and enjoying the warmer weather when a couple had passed me speaking Basque.  I started talking to them and found out they were the band Niña Coyote and Chico Tornado (and very well known I might add in the Basque Country! See below for a clip of their music).  Also turns out the family of one of the members lived on the same street that I currently live now here in Euskalherria!

Just goes to show that si, el mundo es un pañuelo! Hau bai mundu txikia! It’s a small world!

I hope to keep making these cross-cultural connections over the next year here.  Stay tuned for more adventures in fieldwork from here in Euskalherria!


Discovering Txakoli/Chacolí !

Kaixo, everyone!

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.


Photo courtesy of Kerri Lesh



Photo courtesy of Kerri Lesh

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!

I would be delighted to receive any emails with comments or additional information you’d like to share.  Feel free to contact me at:  klesh@unr.edu




Photo courtesy of Kerri Lesh