With the International tapas day and a nationwide tapas event organized by the Spanish Embassy recently ended last month, I have received many comments from people about both terrible and amazing wine and tapas pairings by some of the participating restaurants. So what is the secret for a good tapas and wine pairing?
First, I would like to clarify that tapas are Spanish, full stop. The same that sashimi is Japanese and spaghetti is Italian; you may have raw fish dishes that are not Japanese, like ceviche, and noodles that are not Italian, likewise you may have small dishes that are not Spanish, but tapas are. First rule, if you are enjoying tapas in Spain, go for the local wine, people who make food and wine locally. That is the case in every region of Spain; they tend to make them in a way that compliments each other. For example, nothing beats the Castilian roast lamb with a good Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero, or a Galician seafood platter with an Albarinho.
Second rule, Tempranillo does not always go great with tapas. Mainly because there are many diverse styles of Tempranillo wines, even within the same region. If you want a Tempranillo and you are in doubt go for a wellknown Rioja Crianza, they tend to be velvety and easy to pair.
Third rule, the same that Spanish wines go great with non-Spanish food, like French and Italian, non-Spanish wines can taste delicious with Spanish dishes—experiment.
If you are not a wine or pairing expert try to ask the chef, he is likely to give you a great recommendation regarding which wines go best with each particular dish, but here are some general recommendations for some of the most popular tapas:
Paella: Try an Albarinho, a white Bordeaux or a Spanish Chardonnay
Ibérico Ham: Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Bierzo mencia,
Bordeaux Grilled/cooked chorizo: Toro, Calatayud Grenache,
Rhone Grenache Spanish Omelette: Young Rioja, Navarra rose,
Green Olives: Fino, Manzanilla
Patatas Bravas: Young Mencia, Young Garnacha, dry Riesling
Calamari: Verdejo, Chardonnay Octopus gallega: Albarinho, Rioja Crianza.
Alfredo de la Casa has been organizing wine tastings for over 20 years and has published three wine books, including the Gourmand award winner for best wine education book. You can reach him at www.wineinvietnam.com