Only a couple of decades ago, Spanish cuisine in North America consisted of gazpacho soup, paella Valenciana, and maybe jamon Serrano.
Yet Spain has a very varied cuisine in its many regions bordering the Atlantic Ocean in the north, and Mediterranean Sea in the south.
While in the northern shores of Spain seafood reigns supreme, in La Mancha, lamb and pork dominate.
Rioja’s vine shoot-roasted leg of lamb is legendary with local tempranillo wines.
Spanish cheeses from Manchego, to Tetilla to Cabrales, Garrotxa, Valdeon, Zamorano, Idiazabal, la Serena, and Roncal are all meant for local special wines.
Now, Spain has become a culinary destination country much like France. The secret of Spanish cuisine is its use on in-season local fresh ingredients and ingenuity of caring and innovative chefs with a deep understanding of flavour combinations and delicate, imaginative plate presentations.
Spain’s signature grapes create wines that complement local wines and food perfectly. It seems that nature somehow arranged for this phenomenon, and humans created recipes to match local wines.
The signature grapes of Spain, whether classically identified or not with the country as tempranillo is, others like garnacha (Grenache in France), and monastrell (mourvedre in France), albarino (alvarinho in Portugal), mencia, and pedro ximenez found their way to southern France and some other countries.
Albarino and Spanish paprika go well together. Albarino is the signature white grape of Rias Baixas in north-western Spain, which with its racy acidity, and aromatics is an excellent match to bean and sausage casserole of Asturia. Chicken with paprika is known to go well with albarino wine as well.
Viura (aka macabeo) in Rioja, is a smooth and aromatic earthy wine that complements superbly sautéed wild mushrooms (i.e porcini, chanterelles, morels), or grilled Portobello enriched with flavoured butter. Ripe, flavourful tomatoes match well, verdejo wines from Rueda in central Spain.
Gazpacho Andaluz and verdejo is a classic match. Any tomato-containing chicken or fish dish goes well with verdejo.
If you like lamb, roasted lamb especially, then the best thing to do is to match with Rioja’s famous tampranillo and its derivatives.
Ribera del Duero’s robust tempranillo-based wines are known to complement roast lamb very well indeed.
Granacha, the favourite grape variety of Montsant, Catalonia, happens to be a superb match with dishes containing saffron from La Mancha a little north and west of both regions. Match a light garnacha with paella Valenciana and see what I mean. (The wine must be light, more like rose and not heavily extracted). Baked ham or roasted turkey is also a fine match for garnacha based wines.
If you like authentic curry and chicken or lamb, you are well advised to select monastrell (aka mourvedre) – based wines.
Spanish chefs don’t use much curry, but Caribbean chefs do.
Chorizo, one of the most popular sausages of Spain, and mencia wines complement each other extremely well.
You can also try jamon Serrano with mencia and see how well both work together.
Finally, don’t forget Spanish cheeses like and fine barrel aged red wines from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Mencia, Monstant, and of late also from Navarra and La Mancha.