Today I had the pleasure to accompany Karlos Arguiñano to get to know his Txakoli K5 winery. The winery, literally hugged by the Gipuzkoa Mountains, had a divine view of the cities of Aia, Orio, Zarautz and Ratón de Getaria in front of us and behind us several vineyards by the sea. Caressing our faces the breeze of the Cantabrian Sea. Up above, the singing of the birds and the silence of the wind could all be heard.
“We decided to buy a small mountain and build a winery here because the land and the combination of the sea and mountain climates give our grapes very distinctive features and make this the perfect area to create our txakoli. It is a winery designed thoughtfully by the architects Alonso & Balaguer”.
“In this region, because of the climate, we have a lot of work year-round. The grapevines grow a lot more here than in other places and like all vineyards that are located on large mountainsides, it is more difficult. Also Mother Nature has to do its part in the development of the grapevines. What I mean is that there is life with the insects, worms, birds, moss, herbs, wind, rain and sun. All are fundamental ingredients that give a spark to our txakoli. In addition to this, each year the seasons are crazier, either it rains too much or it is too sunny. In the end, if we want our txakoli to be unique, we have to take care and pamper the grapevines”.
I asked him if his winery is organic.
“Here, because of the rough weather, some level of treatment is necessary to take care of the grapevines, though we try to be as natural as possible. We do not do anything crazy, but completely organic is complicated”.
I will tell you one thing. Organic is what everyone wants but it is not that easy. If now we live longer than our ancestors, it is because science exists. Before, 35 years old people did not have teeth and died easily. That we are much more careful than before? Ok! But we all also have a first aid kit at home, don’t we?
Karlos asked me and continued: Poor people that live in big cities, like São Paulo for example, what do they eat? The poor are obligated to buy food produced in large quantities, which is far from being natural. Organic products are expensive. It is a shame to say that, but if processed foods did not exist, which are possible thanks to science, there would not be enough food for all of humanity. Humanity is already starving to death. But damn! If it was not for those systems, we would be even worse.
Ah! If processed foods did not exist, forget for example about the tomatoes and leeks we find every day in the supermarkets. Those foods would only be eaten by the rich.
Another thing is looking after things. For example, I have to plant and take care of my grapevines in order to be able receive so many kilos of grapes. Another thing is the sea. What happens if one throws a net and takes everything without having replenished anything? We contaminate the oceans, each time there are less fish, each time we are more people and we eat more. The topic is more complicated than it seems.
A bit more about The Revolution of Basque Cuisine.
One time eleven Basque chefs went to Madrid, including myself. We worked like crazy for a week, without being able to leave the kitchen all day. At the end of the event, the radios, the television and the magazines all wanted to interview us. Until that moment, no one had ever asked me anything. The eleven of us were standing in a row, like in a soccer game. Juan Mari Arzak, who was at my side, told me: Karlos, when they ask you something, you talk about whatever you want, but do not stop talking. Well, for 40 years I have not shut up with more than 5,000 T.V. appearances and 25 years with my daily show (laughs).
The essence of Basque gastronomy: The product.
A product: Anchovies.
Your specialty: Having kids, I have seven.
A place: Zarautz.
A smell: The grill.
A flavor: Basque Green peppers.
Sea or mountains: Ugh, I cannot choose only one thing; maybe I am more for the mountains. But I cannot be separated from the sea.
A value: Hygiene, it is essential for a chef.
What has changed most in the kitchen: The way of cooking things.
A message: That young people should not stand still, that if you do not find what you are looking for here then go over there. I have a feeling that the majority of young people here in Spain are from the right, they seem boring to me. They think that everything that is going on, needs to be fixed by others. What about young people? Are you not going to complain or fight? The doctors and the teachers march to the streets to complain, and the university students, what? Where are the people of the future? It seems that they are more worried about buying a fashionable hat than fighting for their interests. If we from the Basque cuisine had not had aspirations and looked forward to getting together to change things, maybe nothing would have changed. We are in the middle of nowhere, yet today our cuisine and culture is recognized worldwide! One must fight for things!!