After a week here in San Sebastián, the group and I finally felt confident enough to navigate this picturesque city without our GPS! Our days feel endless, starting with Spanish class in the morning followed by a quick stop for the meal of the day or pintxos, daily gelato and some time spent in the sun at one of the three beautiful beaches. Although we have developed a routine, today’s itinerary was a little different.
This morning, we embarked to Talai Berri txakolina, a winery in Zarautz. Our bus was tardy, but surprisingly we were not. Up a long windy hill, passing the town of Getaria, beautiful scenery was revealed in Gipuzkoa. The winery goes on for acres, showcasing what makes up the Basque Country’s famous red and white wine: txakoli.
The entrance of the winery has a gift shop and a beautiful window peering out onto the acres of land.
We entered the winery through massive wooden doors and were greeted by our tour guide. Our tour guide started by talking about what the winery means to her. Talai Berri is a family-owned winery, currently in the hands of its fifth generation. Our tour guide and her sister are currently caring for the winery. She handles the agriculture, while her sister deals with administrative side of the business.
Talai Berri’s family tree
Our quick history lesson was followed up with a trip down to the cellar. We quickly learned the multipurpose value that is within the walls of our surroundings and the people within the community. Our tour guide discussed that it takes about sixteen people to manually collect the grapes within the field. These helping hands are also usually neighbors. Every grape is manually picked. The individual is aware of what grapes to take and what to leave behind on the vine. The crates are picked up and brought back to the cellar, where we were standing, accompanied by two essential assets to wine production. The crates are emptied down a slope where they are sorted through again. An emphasis in the entire winery is how most every aspect of the wine production is done manually. The grapes are then sent into a pneumatic press. This press contains a filter, allowing the juice to pass through. The initial press has the highest quality grape juice, but the other presses will still be utilized. The first press is a minimum of five percent of the juice and will be immediately transitioned to the next step. The other ninety five percent of the juice will be taken to a distillery, since it is a lower quality product. At Talai Berri, the skin and all of the grapes are included in the process, as concerns the red wine. The quality batch is moved from our current location into the room across the hall. This next room has about twenty stainless steel tanks. The batch is distributed within these tanks. The batch is left there for twenty four hours, allowing natural filtration. Essentially, it will clean itself and the sediment will settle. This process is vital. The fermentation period allows the sugar to change into alcohol. The white wine fermentation is the same except the top of the tank will be closed so carbonation can’t escape. While for fermentation of Txakoli, the top of the tank is left open until there is about three or four days left in the process . It is then closed so that a little bit of carbonation is contained. The wine is then moved to another stainless steel tank where the temperature is dropped to negative two degrees. After the sediment is completely cleared the wine is moved to the center room to be cleaned one last time. Finally, the wine is bottled and corked.
The cellar, where fermentation of the wine takes place.
Location is everything. Txakoli is a slightly carbonated beverage around Getaria, but in Bizkaia the fermentation process varies slightly. Biscayan wineries keep the top of the tank open throughout the entire fermentation process. Txakoli here in Getaria is sparkling, while in Bizkaia it is not carbonated. This entire process begins with the harvest in September and concludes with bottling the wine by Christmas, a duration of three months. At Talai Berri, nearly one hundred percent of the rosado made is shipped to the United States, the Japanese receive most of the vinegar and Txakoli remains mostly local. Talai Berri is ninety percent white wine production and ten percent red. The latest wine made is Vermouth. It was a recent addition within the last year, containing about fifty to sixty percent of herbs. The wine here is made to be consumed within the next year, reflecting the taste of the past one. Just imagine the taste of 2020, as it was a rough year! Although this year was like no other, the wine was still fantastic.
The first pour of Talai Berri, white wine.
After our background knowledge of the winery was completed, we went upstairs to begin our tasting! The first glass was a white wine named “Talai Berri” after the winery. This was the signature wine. The first taste was a shock to our taste buds. It was crisp and tart with remembrance of a Boston autumn afternoon. Overall this wine won as the group’s favorite because of its balance of sweetness. The next wine poured into our glasses was vermouth. We had the option of white or red vermouth. Personally, I wish I chose red; however, I got white. The white vermouth had a very strong taste. I felt an overpowering sweetness coat my tongue as I took the first sip. My classmates had a similar reaction. Although the few individuals who chose the red wine, such as my friend Bailee, described the wine as having an airy caramel hint, reminding her of the holidays back home. Lastly, we tried a mix of the red and white Vermouth. This was the perfect balance between sweetness and caramel hints. Along with the beverages we were offered fresh tuna, chorizo, cheese and bread to accentuate the taste of our wine.
Avi showcasing the group’s favorite wine, Talai Berri.
Vermouth, tuna, cheese, chorizo and bread with a view!
To end off our wine tasting, we looked out over the winery to see the hectares. The view was remarkable and left us very grateful to have this experience. Two more weeks of adventures left to go, for a lifetime of memories to forever reflect back on.
Just a few of the amazing people I have met on this trip enjoying the view (not pictured: Avi, Nathan and Sean).