Chef Alex Raij Talks Spanish Txakoli and Txistorra


Food and wine are natural companions, so I’m polling some of New York’s most illustrious chefs to find out what kind of wine they are drinking off and on the job. After establishing they actually drink wine (a surprising number prefer beer!), I’m asking a few questions to find out who’s got a penchant for Piedmont, which chefs dislike oaky Chardonnay, and why there is no right or wrong way to enjoy wine.

In today’s installation of this series, I talk with Alex Raij, chef and owner of Txikito, La Vara and El Quinto Pino.

Do you drink wine at home?
Yes! Although I also like sake, rum, and gin, though not all on the same day.

What types of wine do you like to drink?
Any grape or style preferences? I love Spanish wines and Côtes du Rhône, as well as Gamays and rosés all year long. And, of course, sherry.

Are there specific bottles you love or drink on repeat?
I get crushes on wines. Right now I am all about Marques de Vargas Victoria 2005. At Txikito, we have the very last bottles in New York, and I think it’s a real value wine.

Do your preferences carry through to your wine lists?
Definitely. At Txikito, we highlight my predilection for cold-climate Garnachas from Navarra, and we always showcase Garnacha rosés. We also offer Graciano single varietal bottlings; when they are good they are great!

Do you ever buy wine by the case?
I love to buy wine by the case. I usually buy non-Spanish wines; wines I don’t get to drink day-to-day. Right now, Brick House Gamay Noir is my favorite. I also bought a case of 2006 Do Ferreiro because that vintage was a weird year in Rias Baixas, and the resulting wine is very unusual and peaty.

I am also thinking about laying some bottles down. I have never really cellared wine, but the 2009 and 2011 vintages in Spain were so good, they are forcing me to get going on storing some bottles! Both of those vintages are very promising, at least to my palate.

Is there one perfect wine and food pairing for you?
Chinese food and sherry; Txakoli (a lightly sparkling young white wine from Spanish Basque country) and txistorra (a cured sausage also from Basque country). If your readers are interested in tasting homemade txistorra and Txakoli together, they should attend our Txikifest this Sunday June 2nd from 1-4 pm. Each year we host a mini street-fest of food and summer-friendly Txakoli in the alley behind Txikito. Several other restaurants are participating, a great variety of Txakoli will be opened, and proceeds from ticket sales support Sanctuary for Families. Tickets are $50.

Read more of this series:
Wolfgang Ban of Seasonal, Edi and the Wolf, and The Third Man
Anita Lo of Annisa
Frank Prisinzano of Frank, Lil’ Frankie’s, Supper and Sauce
Ben Daitz of Num Pang
Harold Dieterle of The Marrow, Perilla and Kin Shop
Gabe and Katherine Thompson of dell’anima, L’artusi, Anfora and L’Apicio