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Enjoy a richer style of the spritzy white wine, plus an earthy artisanal cider.
Enjoy a richer style of the spritzy white wine, plus an earthy artisanal cider.Ellen Bhang

Deep into September, what I’m sipping might surprise you.

The glass pours I’m talking about — a richer style of Txakoli and an earthy, artisanal cider — hail from Basque country in northern Spain. If you take the coastal route heading east from Galicia toward San Sebastián, this region begins just before you reach Bilbao. Here, rocky cliffs face the sparkling Bay of Biscay. You’re in País Vasco, the home turf of two beverages that reflect fierce reverence for tradition.

You might think of Txakoli (pronounced “chah-ko-lee”) as the lightly effervescent white wine synonymous with summer. Crafted largely from the widely planted hondarribi zuri grape, the majority of bottles, grown near the ocean, fit this description. But drive one hour inland to Álava, the smallest and youngest of the Basque denominations of origin, and you’ll find growing conditions that are drier and warmer, resulting in a richer, riper style.

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One beguiling example of Txakoli de Álava is made at winery Artomaña. In the 1980s, pioneering winegrower Eugenio Álava Ugarte worked to revive Txakoli — the kind he remembered from childhood — in this part of Basque country. Today, his son Mariano Álava Zorilla and his wife, Maika Zorilla, direct operations. Drawing from roughly 50 acres of estate vines, they vinify with a deft touch — fermenting with native yeasts and aging on the lees. The finished product offers the barest hint of CO2 rather than overt bubbles, reflecting the style of this denomination.

The team at Isastegi, the family producer of the cider I’m drinking, adheres firmly to practices that span generations. The estate is a founding member of Euskal Sagardoa, a new protected designation of origin, created in 2017, that sets quality parameters for a special class of natural Basque ciders.

But you might be wondering why I’m mentioning cider in a column devoted to wine. If you peruse this space regularly, you know that I’m keen on makers who elevate local traditions, crafting products that would be impossible to duplicate anywhere else. Isastegi exemplifies that ethos, making cider from native apples grown within a 10-mile radius of its cider house in Tolosa, a 30-minute drive south of San Sebastián. The family’s third generation, now in charge of operations, employs venerable techniques, including the use of native yeasts, and aging in large-format oak barrels called kupelas.

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Furthermore, many of you ask for low-alcohol recommendations that are dry, not sweet. So if you like wine with a hint of funk and sediment, this Basque cider is for you. It’s tart, bone-dry, and clocks in at 6 percent alcohol by volume. And a bonus: Pull out the cork part-way to reveal a notch that facilitates pouring a thin stream. Catch that liquid in a flat-bottomed glass tumbler to aerate the liquid and coax out a whisper of spritz. That way, you’ll be enjoying cider as the Basques do — and upholding tradition with every sip.

Artomaña Txakolina “Xarmant” Txakoli 2020 Fragrant with aromas of ripe yellow tree fruit, this white wine expresses crunchy peach, a lemony sea-salt tang, and just a prickle of dissolved effervescence. 12.5 percent ABV. Distributed by Oz Wine Company. Around $17 for 750 ml. At Dave’s Fresh Pasta, Somerville, 617-623-0867; Berman’s Fine Wines & Spirits, Lexington, 781-862-0515. $30-$35 for a 4-pack of 250 ml cans. At Bacco’s Wine + Cheese, Boston, 617-574-1751; Darwin’s Ltd., Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge, 617-354-5233.

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Isastegi Sagardo Naturala Tart and spirited, this natural cider offers scents of bruised apple, earthiness, and ocean breezes. Appetizingly bone-dry, its salt-tinged palate is entirely food-friendly. 6 percent ABV. Distributed by Oz Wine Company. Around $12 for 750 ml, and $7 for 375 ml. At Dave’s Fresh Pasta; Formaggio Kitchen, Huron Avenue, Cambridge, 617-354-4750.

Ellen Bhang can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com


Ellen Bhang can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com