Ready for a vino-focused regional tour of Spain? To do this tour right, we have to cover the main regions and their signature wines, as well as include classic food marriages, because in Spain, wine and food have evolved synergistically for centuries.
Rioja rules | Lou Phillips
Spain’s most famous wines are crafted from red Tempranillo grapes in a north central region called Rioja. Classic Riojas typically spend significant time in oak and offer intense red fruit flavors, leather, tobacco and earth. These flavors are usually made savorier by the long barrel aging, although a newer trend is to produce fresher versions with little or no oak influence. These Tempranillos meet their delicious match in Rioja’s signature roast baby lamb that is prepared with olive oil, herbs and rustic vegetables.
“Classic Riojas typically spend significant time in oak
and offer intense red fruit flavors, leather, tobacco and earth.”
Heading east to the Priorat region with its impossibly steep mountain vineyards, we experience gutsy, inky and intense Garnacha-based reds often blending Cariñena, Cabernet and Syrah.
In the same area but closer to the coast are the vineyards of the Penedés, full of the indigenous grapes Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada, which are made into spicy, earthy sparkling Cavas.
Paella for all | Dr. Bon Hartline
The cuisines of these areas are defined by the classic sauces aioli, romesco and picada that are full of garlic, peppers, tomatoes, herbs, ground nuts and, of course, olive oil. These elixirs surround and infuse creative dishes combining seafood, meats, fruits and nuts. A classic example is fresh lobster with chicken in garlic hazelnut sauce.
On northwestern coast of Spain is Galacia and the Rias Baixas estuarine inlets where fresh, briny seafood is the order of the day. Wines from the Albariño grape make a wonderful match because they are bright, energetic and full of complex fruit. The best have a light touch of brine from the sea air, which is just right with a bright paella.
Jerez de la Frontera, a city on the southwest coast, is home to Sherry wines that range from dry, nutty, saline-tinged Finos, mainly from the Palomino grape, to sweet, malty and caramel Pedro Ximénez from eponymic grapes. As in much of Spain, tapas of all sorts are the order of the day here and Sherry’s complex oxidized flavors stand up and dance with these Spanish food treasures.
There are many more wine regions in Spain, all with their specialties. You can usually find the place name on the label and not the grapes. So don’t be afraid to ask your wine purveyor if you don’t know.
And by all means, try matching these wines with their traditional meal mates for an authentic and delicious taste de España.
Lou Phillips is a Level 3 Advanced Sommelier and his consulting business wineprowest.com assists in the selling, buying and managing wine collections. He may be reached at (775) 544-3435 or [email protected] Visit TheTahoeWeekly.com for more wine columns.