Note: I wrote this Spanish wine post eight weeks ago when the world was a different place and it was about entertaining friends with a night of Spanish food and wine.
Things have changed but I’ve been inspired by people using their time at home to get back to cooking classic meals and experimenting with flavours. I decided to publish this to inspire you with flavours of Spain.
The first time I drank Spanish wine I was in Spain. And I don’t say that to brag, in fact it’s the opposite.
Why did it take me so long to discover wine from Spain?
But in a way perhaps it was best because I learned about wine with Spaniards. More importantly I learned about entertaining and spending time with friends and family.
#1 Rule: It should not be stressful
In Spain food and wine are just the backdrop to enjoying life. It’s not about the perfect wine pairing it’s more about who they are sharing it with.
It is about enjoying time with the people you love instead of stressing out in the kitchen.
It was in Spain that I really started to appreciate wine. I first toured Logroño before a wine conference where I was to speak about the storytelling in wine.
I was so nervous because there were master sommeliers and wine critics and little ole me.
We tasted some of the best of the regions wine, listened to the fermentation and NO ONE there was stuffy.
Despite being some of the most accomplished people in the wine world they were also the most unpretentious.
When I spilled a glass of wine after hours of tastings they simply yelled “Opa!” Inspired by the Greek sommeliers also in the group.
And when I admitted I didn’t know what corked wine tasted like, they were delighted they could take the corked glass I had and give me a new uncorked version so I would learn it indeed tastes like wet newspaper.
Later on I visited Girona and many other wine regions in Spain and what remained consistent was the easy going approach to wine.
That was something that changed how I entertained.
Cooking for Loved Ones Shouldn’t Be Difficult
Since then when I cook for people I know that it’s not only my job to provide the meal. But also, I need to be present.
I can’t be stressed out in the kitchen, I am there to be with people I love
And so I have three rules I always follow:
- Create a fun but simple theme
- Give people an opportunity to learn without being pretentious
- Make everything in advance only needing to assemble that day
This is why I love a Spanish theme, it ticks all the boxes. While people know a bit about Cava and perhaps about Rioja, there is SO much more to learn.
From the mountains of Priorat to the soil in Costa Brava, Spanish wine can be quite diverse.
But there’s one thing Spanish wine isn’t – and that’s fussy. I have found it’s an easy way to win over people, many are afraid to try new wines so I like to pick one they know and two they don’t.
In this case I have paired 3 different wines from Spain that I personally love. And they are all between $14-25 at the LCBO, which is convincing enough for them to try it again.
Inspired by many meals I had in Spain and the art of tapas, I’m also sharing how to make food stress free – and focus on being present.
These Spanish wine and food pairings are fun and it won’t take you all day before you can sit down and enjoy.
A Note on Stemware
I like to keep things relaxed. I spent so much time in little spots in Spain where wine was often served in tumbler glasses. Spaniards aren’t as high maintenance, and stressing over wine glasses isn’t something they do.
I really like stemless wine glasses because:
- If people don’t know much about wine they feel more comfortable.
- There is less opportunity for spilling.
At times I also keep clean stemware out on the counter in the kitchen for anyone who likes to swirl, sniff and sip their wine. Fortunately, that doesn’t exist in my family.
Cava + Oysters
Cava is one of the most versatile wines to pair with food. It’s one of the few that can hold up to spring vegetables like asparagus or wild ramps or even creamy sauces.
It’s also a great way to greet people at the door, everyone likes a bit of bubbles.
Cava is my favourite type of sparkling wine because it’s priced similarly to Italian Prosecco yet it is made more similarly to French Champagne but is often a lighter style and less acidic.
Most Cava is made in Catalonia, in northeastern Spain usually using Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes.
I love Cava and oysters, the fresh clean flavour is a perfect wine pairing with briny oysters.
Growing up in Nova Scotia, it’s more common to have oysters at home (here’s a quick video on how to shuck oysters) – as long as you don’t pick Malpeques as they are a bit more difficult.
And if you have vegetarian in your family charred shishito peppers, known as padron peppers in Spain, are a great pairing as well. But be careful because they say 1 in 20 are fiery hot.
I found these great stemless sparkling flutes which I love. I have never been a fan of sparkling glasses – either the coupe or the long flute. These are perfect no fuss cava glasses.
You’ll Love Cava if…
You love bubbles and want a high quality sparkling for a fantastic price.
Crianza + Charcuterie
You can buy a meat and cheese board or it’s easy to make one yourself with high quality ingredients.
If you choose typical Spanish foods you cannot go wrong: Iberico ham, Manchego cheese, dried apricots, almonds, chorizo, olives and preserves.
I also create a separate vegetarian platter to be kind to people who do not want their food touching some of the delicious Spanish meat…more for me!
Crianza is a blended wine from the Rioja Spain, a Denominacion de Origen Calificada region where the production production, quality and taste must be approved for a series of strict regulations.
The grape most commonly used is Tempranillo.
All aging is done at the winery to maintain quality. Even if it is bottle aged, it is done at the winery before the wine is shipped.
You can find four types of wine:
- Rioja – aged less than a year
- Crianza – aged for at least two years
- Reserva – aged for at least three years
- Gran Reserva – barrel aged for at least 2 years and in the bottle for at least three years.
I love a good Crianza because it’s a light red that pairs well with so many foods – especially a meat and cheese board.
It has more body than a merlot. It is aged a minimum of one year in an oak barrel and has notes of red fruit.
You’ll Love Crianza if…
You like light bodied red wine.
Monastrell + Spanish Beef Stew
Stews are perfect for entertaining because they always taste better the next day. Spain is home to so many great braised meat dishes and this one uses the wine that I’m serving.
It’s an easy trick to know that the two will pair well together.
Although it seems like a beef stew would be heavy, I find people do like something a bit hearty when drinking wine. I serve it in small portions with great bread and people almost always come for seconds.
If you have vegetarians in your family, a separate stew substituting umami rich mushrooms and white beans or lentils is a great match.
Monastrell is a lesser known Spanish red wine grape variety. It is from the Alicante, Jumilla, Almansa and Yecla regions in Spain, along the Mediterranean coast.
It is a rich, full bodied wine that has notes of black fruits (blueberry, blackberry or plum) with a rich flavour that pairs so well with meats, game or dark chocolate.
In fact it’s a great wine to pair with a hamburger or for a barbecue. It’s fantastic with a strong cheddar. I think it’s one of the most undervalued wines in Spain.
It’s used as a blending grape as well and actually gives the Cava rose sparkling wine its pink hue.
You’ll Love Monastrell if…
You’re a fan of bold reds with medium tannins like cabernet sauvignon.
If you have a favourite Spanish wine that I haven’t mentioned let me know in the comments below!