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hondarribiIf you’re tired of the same old wine routine and want something different, this is it—perhaps the oddest wine I’ve had all year.

Honarribi Beltza is an obscure grape grown primarily in the Basque region of Spain where it is used to make the red version of  txakolina (pronounced chok-o-lina)—a refreshing, high-acid table wine ubiquitous in the pinxos bars of San Sebastian. (The vastly more prominent white version uses honarrribi zuri grapes). Both the white and the red are sometimes slightly effervescent  but this red by Ameztoi from the Getariako region is still. (Don’t confuse it with the rose made by the same producer)

Although light-to-medium weight on the palate, the red version has plenty of structure from the acidity and robust tannins that give this a surprisingly long finish. The nose is bizarre—raspberry in the background with very prominent pear notes which I have never experienced in a red wine. The palate is sour raspberry with very dry licorice notes. Juicy and very fruity from at least partial carbonic maceration, yet nevertheless tart and structured, the overall impression is playful but rustic. It will stand up to most meat dishes, full flavor cheeses and fried fish.

I found this wine to be a bit of a challenge—fruity but exceedingly dry, cheerful and zesty but harsh—like your favorite schizophrenic.

Score: 85

Price: $25

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