Craft Wine and Beer owner Ty Martin always looks forward to this time of year. Spring is when he receives shipments of Txakolina, a traditional style of Basque wine that—like the season—is celebrated for its freshness.
“The typical Txakolina you’ll come across will be white,” Martin explained. “It will be slightly effervescent, not full sparkling, typically. And it’ll be crisp, mineral and dry. A little bit salty is not uncommon.”
Txakolinas pair well with seafood—a mainstay in the diets of people from the regions of Spain where they’re made. And, according to Martin, they’re not generally considered ageable wines.
“The joy of them is that they’re fresh,” he said.
When shipments of Txakolina arrive at Craft each year, they’ve only been bottled for a month or two on average.
“And we sell out of them every year—so we almost always have the current vintage in,” Martin said. “Usually, we get them in around this time of year, and then they’re gone by the end of summer.”
Many of them will be sold during Craft’s upcoming Txakolina Fest—an annual event Martin hosts at his shop. It features Basque dancing by the local group Zazpiak Bat, finger foods called pintxos and flights of Txakolina wines from various winemakers.
“You never know who’s going to be here, but usually there’s a pretty good showing of local Vascos, if we get the word out in time,” he said.
But the Txakolina festival is not just for those already in the know. Martin explained that because imports of Txakolina were particularly rare until recent years, the wine is often unfamiliar to locals—even those with Basque heritage.
“A lot of native Northern Nevadans who have a long tradition of Basque culture haven’t had these wines unless they’ve gone back to the Basque Country because they haven’t been offered here,” he said.
Martin said attendees at Craft’s Txakolina festival will have the option of flights to sample six or seven Txakolinas from different producers—or they can try their hands at a more traditional method for imbibing the wine: using a porron.
“A porron is a Basque decanter,” Martin said. “So it’s kind of like if you took a decanter and a bong and made them look like each other. … So, traditionally, obviously, wineskins are a big part of Basque culture. It’s a traditional vessel. With a porron, it’s kind of an extension of that. You pour the wine in—or cidre. You can do cider, absolutely, as well. You put it on the table, and then, instead of everybody having a glass and pouring it, they just pick up the porron and take a drink out of it.”
It’s an unusual looking vessel and one that requires some practice to employ. Wine is poured through the decanter’s long, narrow spout. The drinker must get his or her mouth near enough to intercept the flowing wine without touching lips to the porron’s spout.
“And that’s a part of the fun of the porron,” Martin said. “People are hanging out drinking, and, of course, drinking games ensue. It becomes a challenge to see who can have the longest pour by extending their arm the farthest, drink the most—or, you know, when you get really trick, people will basically use the contours of their faces to pour it and have it end up in their mouths.”
Porron pouring competitions have been a part of Craft’s Txakolina Fest since its inception in 2012, and Martin is happy to demonstrate the skill, though he doesn’t expect to be a standout among the competitors. Porron pouring skills come with experience, giving certain demographics an edge.
“The best people for porron pouring last year were a bunch of grandmas,” Martin said.