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Spanish wines offer enormous versatility when it comes to food. Patricia Langton pairs six of the country’s top grapes with a tempting array of dishes and gives recommendations on where to taste Spanish wine and food in the capital
The white Albariño wines of Galicia’s Rías Baixas region are generally unoaked and made to be enjoyed in their youth, when they are delightfully fresh with delicate peachy fruit – although there are some interesting oaked styles to discover, too. When it comes to food matching, keep it simple: enjoy Albariño as the Spanish do, with fresh shellfish – especially scallops – and a wide variety of white fish, including Dover sole, cod, hake and sea bass. Some of the newer styles of wine from Galicia blend Albariño
with Treixadura, Godello and Loureira. These are generally more structured wines, and a fish pie would complement any of them.
Hailing from the region of Rueda to the north-west of Madrid, Verdejo is a classic white Spanish grape – and it’s incredibly versatile. It can make lighter styles of wine for everyday drinking – often including a splash of Sauvignon Blanc or Viura – which have crisp apple fruit. Or as a solo act, Verdejo can produce more complex styles – particularly if it is aged in oak, which brings out the grape’s attractive tropical fruit and citrus flavours. These are wines for the table; they are delicious with a variety of fish dishes, such as Basque seafood casserole or a meaty swordfish steak with salsa, as well as chicken and pork.
Almost synonymous with the wines of Rioja, the red grape Tempranillo is also found in other Spanish wine regions,
including Toro and Ribera del Duero (where it is known as Tinto Fino). Its seductive red fruit has given it a loyal following, and Tempranillo has long been responsible for many of Spain’s finest wines in both classic and contemporary guises. Young Tempranillo wines are ideal for relaxed meals, especially tapas. They work a treat with cured meats – jamón, pork loin and cecina (air-dried beef). Or how about a few lamb chops a la plancha? Meanwhile, oak-aged crianza wines are perfect with a Sunday roast.
A new generation of Spanish winemakers has recognised the potential of old-vine Garnacha, which now makes some of Spain’s most highly prized reds. For top Garnacha wines, look to Priorat in Catalonia, but great-value versions are well worth seeking out just to the west of this region in Campo de Borja, Calatayud and Cariñena. In Rioja, the variety plays an important supporting role to Tempranillo and is perfectly at home in the warmer Rioja Baja. Finally, Garnacha’s crunchy red fruit and crisp acidity makes it
the grape of choice for Navarra’s rosé wines. Savour a Garnacha wine with cochinillo (suckling pig) or roast lamb.
A much rarer red grape variety, small-berried Graciano is challenging to grow, but it can offer spectacular results. The variety plays a valuable role in Rioja blends, especially those destined for long ageing, giving depth of character with its inky black fruit, and a touch of finesse. In both Rioja and Navarra, some producers make impressive wines from Graciano alone, especially in warmer vintages. These are powerful yet elegant wines that are ideal for winter drinking and with strongly flavoured foods. A Graciano wine with morcilla and fried quails’ eggs is a tasty combination, while duck, venison and slightly spicy dishes also make a great match.
Palomino & the sherry grapes
Just one white grape – Palomino – is responsible for most styles of sherry, from light fino to rich, golden-hued oloroso. And such is the variety of styles that there’s a different sherry to go with whatever food you’re eating. You can’t go wrong with a glass of chilled fino with a few olives or toasted almonds or, even better, some fried calamari or croquetas. On chilly winter days, the darker styles of sherry are particularly enjoyable; a dry, nutty oloroso with rabbit cooked in sherry is a delightful combination. When it comes to dessert, two other grapes come into play: paler Moscatel sherries have mouthwatering lemon and tangerine fruit, while intriguing rich, dark Pedro Ximénez ‘PX’ wines are strictly for the sweet-toothed and just have to be tasted.
|Where to try Spanish wines and food|
For full reviews of all restaurants and branches mentioned, please see squaremeal.co.uk
Thursday 21 March 2013, 6-8.30pm | Old Billingsgate, 16 Lower Thames Street, London, EC3R 6DX | 120 wines to try | Sherry and cava bars | Expert advice | Signature tapas from restaurants including Tapas Brindisa, Camino, Ibérica, Rosita & The Sherry Bar and more | £30 per ticket | Read further information and find out how to book tickets here | Follow us on Twitter @SpanishWinesUK| winesfromspainuk.com