Tantaka, Juanjo Tellaetxe’s wines in the Basque Country


I have always been against chauvinism. This thing that what’s mine is the best only because it is mine is a concept that I cannot understand. And I don’t share it either, of course. There are some aspects in which I defend “what’s mine” but only because after trying “others’ stuff” I see that I like “what’s mine” more. This is the case of Txakoli. I have tried Txakoli made in Bizkaia, in Gipuzkoa and some of what is made in Araba. Logically I have not been able to taste everything because there is a lot. But after what I have tasted, my preference is the Txakoli made in Bizkaia. Obviously I have tasted some interesting Txakoli from Araba, but rather they were just exceptions.

It should also be noted that I do not have a deep knowledge about the differences in production of each province. I’m sure there are, but I admit that I do not know them. However, I have always found more interesting the Txakoli of my home province.

Thanks to my dear Giacomo, a Txakoli from Araba came within my reach one day. Having tasted several wines that I found a bit dull, even tasting different labels and vintages, I decided to give it a try. The truth is that there were certain biographical notes in its winemaker that I considered appealing. And what a discovery!

Juanjo Tellaetxe is that person behind a very very good Txakoli from Araba. Juanjo produced two white wines under the Tantaka label; one that we can refer to as entry level or basic called Tantaka and another that Juanjo calls Tantaka Selección. Juanjo also makes a small handful of bottles of a Txakoli Beltza, a red wine.

But before talking about the wines, we must talk about its creator. Juanjo Tellaetxe has a main job and that is a priest. Making wine comes later. He manages the family vineyards that surround his basque country house located in Artomaña, a small town located in the Valle de Arrastaria. Like every valley, it is surrounded by mountains that protect it from the inclemency of northern weather, although on its north side it has a small gap where the wind usually creeps in. This valley includes geographically the Biscayan city of Orduña. And I say city (ciudad) because in Bizkaia it is the only town that receives this distinction. Bilbao is a town (villa), not a city.

If Orduña is a Biscayan city, how is it possible for Juanjo to make Txakoli from Alava? It turns out that the Arrastaria Valley belongs to the province of Araba. Inhabitants of both provinces here are known for having an outstanding relationship between them. It also turns out that the some of the agricultural plots of the Tellaetxe family are distributed between the two provinces but the vineyards are mainly located in Araba.

Juanjo vinifies his wines in Amurrio, which is indeed Araba. In his winery he works with stainless steel tanks and no barrels, though when I visited him he had just received a couple of 400 or 500-liter barrels to work with in the future.

The Hondarrabi Zuri is the star of Tantaka wines. The basic wine uses it 100% while the Selection adds 20% Petit Corbu. It also has some Riesling planting and if memory serves me well, a little bit of Chardonnay. It also has some Hondarrabi Beltza for its red wine, which I have commented he produces well under a thousand bottles a year.

Juanjo works his wines very well. Giacomo always tells me that I have to talk about the wines. I am not about making tasting notes or giving aromatic descriptors of the wine, but rather saying what I like and what I don’t. In Juanjo’s case, I really enjoy his wines. I have enjoyed the 2017 and 2018 vintages in bottle and the 2019 out of the tank. Tantaka is a different Txakoli from the usual ones, from any province. Juanjo said that its elaboration was more in the Biscayan style, and I believe it. What I know is that it is very good.

Tantaka Selección is absolutely different from Tantaka, and absolutely wonderful. The Petit Corbu gives it a very distinctive touch that makes it have and silky yet powerful taste and above all, an opulent mouth. Nothing of a wine with little flavor that quickly fades away. Selección remains with a very well achieved acidity. Perhaps at first for a more classic Txakoli drinker, so to speak, it may be very surprising, but precisely there is the grace, right? At least for me. I like that my wine surprises me, and Tantaka Selección surprises, and pleasantly, until the very end of the glass and the bottle.

For the 2019 vintage, Juanjo will add a new wine to his portfolio while he will change the name of other two wines:

  • Tantaka 2019, the basic txakoli, with a white wax closing.
  • Tantaka Beltza 2019, with a dark wax closing.
  • Tantaka Diapiro 2019, Hondarribi Zuri and Riesling, with a green wax closing
  • Tantaka Diapiro 2019, Hondarribi Zuri and Petit Corbu, former Tantaka Selección, with an orange wax closing.

I can’t speak much about the Txakoli Beltza because we only tasted it out of the tank in 2019, but I was left with the desire to try it, to taste it and enjoy it more calmly. I hope that moment will come when I get my hands on my 2019 assignment, because from now on I am a fan of Juanjo’s work.

Soon we will talk to Juanjo Tellaetxe about his work making Txakoli.