At the top of my favorite travel memories is devouring tapas and wine in Madrid. Spain is a foodie and wine lover paradise; together they’re even better. What’s great about Spanish food is that you can try a vast amount of flavors all in one meal. Spaniards are famous for their small plates called tapas. As the third largest wine producing country in the world, Spain also has a full range of wines to pair with tapas.
What are tapas?
Tapas are small plates of food. Tapas are somewhere in size between a snack and an appetizer. There are cold tapas like olives and nuts and hot tapas like mushrooms or patatas bravas. Tapas are served one or two at a time and by the end of an evening, you’ve had a complete meal. In Spain, every time you order a drink at a bar, a tapa will accompany it, often for free. Of course, you can order whatever tapas you like from a menu, but they’ll come out staggered throughout your stay.
Round up of Tapas Recipes to Try
If you’re looking to have your own Tapas and Wine Night, try these recipes. One great thing about tapas is that they are simple recipes with just a few ingredients.
- Spanish Olives
- Stuffed Mushrooms
- Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)
- Patatas Bravas
- Tortilla Española (Egg and Potato Omelette)
- Chorizo, Manchego, and Olive Skewers
- Calamares Fritos (Fried Calamari)
- Pan Con Tomate (Bread with Tomato Spread)
- Croquetas de Jamon
- Tosta con Sardinas (Sardines on Toast)
- Bacon Wrapped Dates with Goat Cheese
Tapas and Wine
In Spain, tapas bars double as wine bars. In most European countries, drinking wine without food is just not done; you can’t have one without the other. A tiny bite will come out with your glass of wine and every subsequent glass you order. These will be the smallest tapas likely olives or nuts, but after a couple of glasses, it’s probably best to order a tosta or some chorizo.
How to Pair Wine with Tapas
What’s great about tapas and wine is that there’s such an array of flavors that almost any wine will match with at least something you’ve ordered. To make better pairings, start out with lighter foods and lighter wines and then build up to heavier foods with fuller-bodied wines. This will avoid any wine and food pairing flavor clashes. You don’t want to overwhelm a plate of sardine pan con tomate with a red wine from Jumilla and you also don’t want to render a glass of Txakoli tasteless against a roasted lamb dish.
What Wine to Drink with Tapas?
When deciding what wine to drink with tapas, look no further than what the Spaniards are doing. Logic would dictate that one would drink Spanish wine with tapas. You’ll notice the wines aren’t the boldest wines available in Spain but rather wines that can cover a large variety of foods. Below I’ve listed 10 wine styles and what tapas go best with each wine.
Vermút Cocktail as an Apertif
Do as they do in Spain and start off your tapas and wine evening with a vermút cocktail. Vermút, or vermouth, is a fortified wine flavored with herbs and spices. All vermút is white wine but changes color as ingredients are added. In Spain, a lot of tapas bars make their own vermút with their specific blends of cinnamon, caramel, and botanicals and have it on tap. It can be served with a splash of soda water (sifón) on the rocks with a twist of lemon or a skewer of olives. It can also be made into a cocktail with gin and campari.
Pair Vermút with tapas that are pickled like pickled onions, peppers, and anchovies. These are traditionally served in tapas bars when you order a glass (or bottle) of vermút. Pickles are nearly impossible to pair with wines because pickles are made with vinegar. Vinegar is essentially spoiled wine, right? So pairing spoiled wine with healthy wine is very tricky. Well, vermút to the rescue!
Cava Goes with All Tapas
If you’re looking for a wine pairing with tapas that will go with absolutely everything, look no further than Spanish sparkling wine, Cava. I’ve written endlessly on how sparkling wines are perfect with fried food, heck, I even made a holiday out of it. Pair Cava with fried calamari, fried anchovies, or pan-fried cauliflower. Cava is also amazing with salty nuts, manchego cheese, and cured meats. So basically, everything.
Fino Sherry is a Classic Tapas and Wine Pairing
If you want to go full authentic and old school with your tapas and wine pairing, you need to drink fino sherry. Fino sherry is a dry fortified wine made of the Palomino grape in the Jerez region. It’s aged under a layer of flor that adds complexity and a nutty flavor to the wine. Fino sherry is the best wine with tapas like jamon Iberico, green olives, Marcona almonds, and salmon tapas.
Txakoli is Perfect with Lighter Tapas
Have you ever seen people drinking from a porron? A porron is a type of decanter used in the Basque region of Spain and you pour wine directly into your mouth. It’s pretty much the most fun you can have drinking wine. The Basque region is famous for their Txakoli wines. They are light, dry, slightly effervescent, and totally refreshing and delicious. Pair Txakoli with snack-type tapas and seafood tapas like clams and mussels. If you’re having a tapas party, you must buy a porron.
Albariño is the Tapas Wine Pairing for Seafood
Albariño and seafood are a match made in heaven…or rather, a match made by Albariño vineyards proximity to the Atlantic ocean. Any tapas with sardines, shrimp, or octopus are a no-brainer match with this high acid, mineral dry white wine. A perfect non-seafood match is croquetas de jamon.
You Can’t Go Wrong with Rueda
Speaking of amazing white wine from Spain, wines from Rueda of the Verdejo grape are another great match with tapas. Rueda wines also have great acidity but a little more body and would be a great tapas wine pairing with cured meats like jamon or lomo. Rueda wines also pair particularly well with hard to match vegetables like asparagus and artichokes.
Rosada is Spanish Rosé
Spanish rosada tends to be a darker, fruitier, and fuller rosé wine. It’s a great choice for tapas and wine pairing because it can go with foods that tend to pair better with white wine as well as with foods that tend to go better with red wine. Pair Spanish rosada with tostas with cured meat, pan con tomate, and stuffed mushrooms.
Tempranillo and Tapas is Timeless
Tempranillo is the most famous red variety of Spain. It grows all over Spain and comes in many different styles. When it comes to tapas and wine pairing, Tempranillo is a great red wine choice. Opt for lighter styles of Tempranillo that are labelled Joven or Crianza meaning they’re young and fruity. Pair Tempranillo with cured meats, lamb skewers, or Spanish meatball tapas.
Mencia is a Wine Worth Discovering
Spanish red wines were some of the first wines I fell in love with. At first I was all about the big bold wines made from the Monastrell grape until I tried a wine from Bierzo made from the Mencia grape. The wines are aromatic and much lighter in body. They also have great acidity which is the key component with food pairing. Mencia will not overwhelm lighter tapas and will be perfect with cured meat tostas, chorizo, patatas bravas, and cheeses.
Sangria is a Great Tapas Pairing for a Party
Sangria is a great choice for a large group. You can make it in pitchers ahead of time and it goes with everything. My suggestions is to make a pitcher of white wine sangria and a pitcher of red wine sangria to give your guests variety. Sangria is refreshing and fruity and perfect for an outdoor Spanish themed Tapas and Wine fiesta!