The Doniene cuvée is viticultor and winemaker Itziar Insausti’s personal mission to show the world that hondarrabi zuri, the indigenous grape of txakoli, can be more than just a lighthearted wine; it can be serious, multifaceted, and truly world-class. The same battle has been fought in the past decade to great effect within the Crus Communaux of Muscadet in France to differentiate the producers who are shooting for higher quality and terroir-driven styles from the everyday party wines used to wash down oysters. Neither style is better or worse, yet it is necessary to differentiate the intent. The latter requires an incredible amount of time, persistence, and monetary sacrifice in the form of lower yields for the vigneronne who wants to create something truly distinctive. Such is the case for Doniene, with yields less than half of the permitted allowance by the D.O.
Vintage Notes – 2019 was an outstanding vintage in the Bizkaiko Txakolina appellation, possibly the best vintage of the decade for quality, complexity, and age-ability. Spring was rainy, with mild temperatures lasting through early June. Summer saw little rainfall, with rain concentrated in a few specific storms, with a majority of clear, sunny days. The summer temperature was moderated by a cool breeze from the Cantabrian Ocean, with a long, even ripening period favoring exceptional phenolic development. The 2019 harvest took place between September 26 and October 12 under ideal conditions, with an absence of disease in the vines and the health of the grapes was extraordinary. 1,600 cases produced.
Vinification – After a manual harvest, the grapes are destemmed and given a brief cold soak. Only the free-run juice is used, and each parcel is vinified separately using only native yeasts. The wine then rests on its lees until bottling the following March. Very little sulfites are used in the vinification process, with less than 15ppm total.
- Bizkaiko Txakolina
- Site: Ardanza, Artatxu, Iturriaga, and Torrezar at 250m
- Grapes: Hondarrabi Zuri
- Vine Age: Vines planted from 1992 to 2005
- Soil: Clay and sand
- Farming: Practicing Organic
- Vinification: Fermented with native yeast in stainless steel
- Aging: A few months on the lees
- Vegan: Yes
Doniene Gorrondona is perched on precipitous green cliffs above the Bay of Biscay in the seaside village of Bakio, near Bilbao in the Spanish Basque Country. The name of the winery is a combination of Doniene, Basque for Saint John, the patron Saint of Bakio whose shrine and hermitage is on the summit of the nearby San Juan de Gaztelugatxe island, and Gorrondona, the name of the farmhouse and winery which was built in 1852.
The winery was founded by winemaker and oenologist Itziar Insausti and journalist Andoni Sarratea. Itziar’s brother Egoitz works in the winery and assists agronomist Julen Frías in the vineyards. Doniene Gorrondona was one of three original pioneers in the revival of txakolina production near Bilbao, with the creation of the Bizkaiko Txakolina DO in 1994. Prior to that, the txakolina discipline was nearly lost in the area, with many vineyards given over to the construction of seaside homes. Their goal has always been to rejuvenate the tradition of txakolina and honor its contribution to the gastronomic and cultural history of their village with the indigenous hondarrabi zuri and hondarrabi beltza grapes. Unlike some of their neighbors, they eschew the use of international varietals, believing in the traditional local grapes of their ancestors.
Doniene Gorrondona currently farms 16 hectares of vines, including a unique two-hectare parcel of pre-phylloxera hondarrabi beltza. The vines are planted pergola-style to allow air circulation in this moist climate. The Bakio valley creates a steeply-sloped bowl which faces the Cantabrian Sea, where vineyards are carved from the rock and surrounded by forests on one side and the ocean on the other. This incredible natural setting yields distinctive txakoli wines born from forest and ocean, marked by fresh mountain herbs and salinity. Itziar crafts transparent, elegant white wines that speak to the region and their absolute quality.
They are also famous for never giving up on tinto txakolina, as the history of the region once included red wines before phylloxera. Gorrondona tinto, from 100% hondarrabi beltza, has become a cult classic and is widely regarded to be the premier red txakolina of Basque Country. With a tiny average production of 300 cases each year, the lucky few eagerly await each new vintage. In addition, they are also the only winery within the Bizkaiko Txakolina DO to have their own distillery; producing orujo and hierbas liquors.
Doniene Gorrondona farms ecologically and the wines are fermented using only the indigenous yeasts for spontaneous fermentation. Itziar and Andoni believe in creating wines that reflect their distinct terruño with the goal of crafting the most authentic wines in the region.