The Cantabrian region of Alava, which includes the municipalities of Amurrio, Ayala, Artziniega, Llodio and Okondo, forms the geographical setting where the vines are grown to produce the txakoli of Álava.
The txakoli is a light, fruity, slightly sparkling wine, with a refreshing hint of acidity, that enjoys the ideal climate for its production in Cuadrilla de Ayala. It is made mainly (80%) from the Hondarribi Zuri grape variety, a white grape variety native to the Basque Country, and to a lesser extent, 20%, from the Gros Manseng, Petit Manseng and Petit Corbu varieties.
According to Dr. Juan Uruñuela, the meaning of “txakoli” as we know it today is “home-made wine” or “wine that is made in the hamlet” which comes from the Basque “etxakoa” – that made at home -, and this evolved into “etxakon” which came to mean “neighbour” to become “txakon” and then finally “txacolin” or “chacolin”.
The earliest written evidence found shows that the production of txakoli was already a common, widespread practice among farmers in the Ayala region in 9th century Álava. During the 13th-15th centuries the planting of txakoli vineyards spread throughout the whole of the Cuadrilla de Ayala. We can find the first appearance of the word “chacolín” in the records dated 1st November,1623 for the village of Arespalditza-Respaldiza, now in the municipal archives of the Basque Country. In the last third of the 19th century, there were 965 vineyards in production throughout the Llodio valley. In 1877, three devastating blights considerably reduced the number of vineyards throughout the Basque territory, which, together with other factors, meant that the cultivation of vines and the production of txakoli virtually disappear in the Cuadrilla de Ayala region. As from 1989, a concerted replanting began.
Today, thanks to the continuous efforts of the txakoli producers of the Cuadrilla de Ayala, the quality and production of txakoli have been increasing considerably. In June, 1988 the Álava Association of Artisan Producers of Txakoli-Arabako Txakolina Elkartea was created with the aim of uniting the necessary initiatives to revitalize the txakoli vineyards of Álava, previously considered a fundamental pillar of the area’s economy. Eventually, in 1998, Arabako Txakolina achieved status under “Wines of the Land” classification, finally securing Designation of Origin in 2001.
With regard to the festival, Txakoli Day or Txakolinaren Eguna, which has been celebrated on the Sunday following the feast of San Isidro since 1998, consists of the Arabako Txakolina Denomination of Origin presenting the year’s harvest, and allowing those attending to discover the best wines produced by the participating wineries.
One of the most important events at Txakolinaren Eguna is the cooking competition. This is not a typical contest, given that participants must use two special ingredients in their recipes: txakoli with Arabako Txakolina Designation of Origin and Lumagorri farmhouse chicken.
Consequently, Txakoli Day or Txakolinaren Eguna, is a twinning of quality products, with tastings and a popular craft fair held in Amurrio. Naturally, all those who visit this municipality in Álava will have the opportunity to try the wine in question.
In addition, on this day each year a person who has contributed in some particular way to help promote this prized white wine from Álava or the Ayala Region in general is officially honoured.
Amurrio is 40 kilometres from Vitoria-Gasteiz, via the N-622 and A-624.