When my sister announced that she was marrying a Spaniard in a seaside city in Northern Spain, I was, of course, thrilled for her, but also secretly excited for me. I knew that the wedding celebration meant a firsthand introduction to the local culture from football (soccer) to food. Goaaaal!
While I anticipated the Spanish wines I would get to try during my travels, I hadn’t known how much I would relish the tapas, the small bites, that often accompany those glasses.
Early on, I was introduced to tapas bars, the quintessential place to savor a glass (or two) of wine, socialize and enjoy a variety of these small bites. In Spain, the day's largest meal is lunch, and since dinner is routinely eaten late in the evening, tapas bars are generally very busy with folks like me who want (nay, need) to tide themselves over until dinner.
Tapas. The word is derived from "tapar", which means "to cover”. Tapas were originally small pieces of bread topped with a slice of cured ham that bartenders offered free of charge to cover your glass of wine, reportedly to keep the fruit flies away. As clever bartenders discovered that salty ham spurred beer, wine and sherry sales, the tasty tradition of tapas was born.
In some cities when you order a drink, a tapa (the singular version) may still be served for free.
Beware though: it’s a gateway tapa! You will want more. While tapas used to refer to a variety of little snacks like olives, almonds and cubes of sheep's milk cheese, it has evolved to include a wide variety of small dishes of hot, cold or marinated foods that pack a punch of flavor. From Serrano ham and savory croquettes to marinated olives and battered and fried seafood, I found it all too easy to make a whole meal of these savory bites.
Souvenirs Upon my return home, I discovered that preparing tapas is easy, especially compared to returning to Spain. So if you, like me, can’t make it abroad this spring, try tapas and a great bottle of Spanish wine for a simple escape. To get started, check out these exceptional varieties of wine from Spain's diverse regions and mix and match from this simple tapas menu.
Set out in little bowls:
- Marinated olives
- Marcona or tamari-roasted almonds
- Sautéed shrimp or mushrooms in oil and garlic
Spread toasted bread with a dollop of roasted garlic aioli and top with:
- Grilled or marinated anchovies or sardines
- Piquillo peppers
- Serrano ham and Manchego cheese
- Marinated tomatoes with garlic
Skewer on toothpicks:
- Anchovies wrapped around piquillo peppers
- Olives stuffed with chiles, almonds, goat cheese or sun-dried tomatoes
- Cubes of Manchego or Urgelia cheese
- Fried or roasted cubed potatoes with aioli for dipping
- Chunks of spicy chorizo sausage with aioli for dipping
Mas Tapas Here are four more dishes and Spanish wine pairings for each.
- Try a Spanish tortilla, which is similar to a frittata with the addition of potatoes. Spanish Tortilla with Roasted Peppers and Spinach can be cut and served as small bites or in larger pieces as an entrée. Serve with Palacios Remondo La Vendimia Garnacha Tempranillo.
- Bacon Manchego Dates leave a sweet, salty impression with your guests and are a great go-to for hosts pressed for time. Toast your date with Castaño Monastrell.
- How can you go wrong with great country bread, extra-virgin olive oil and ripe tomatoes? Spanish-Style Bruschetta translates to simple elegance. Try it with Castillo de Monséran Garnacha.
- Mussels Vinaigrette are party pleasers, especially when served with Hermanos Lurton Verdejo.
Remember, wine and cheese always make a perfect pair. From sheep's milk cheese from the Pyrenees to soft, creamy Murciana goat’s milk cheese, learn more about the cheeses that complement wines from Spain.
Thirsty For More?
The varied topography in Spain creates one of the world’s most diverse wine regions. From crisp Whites to deep, rich Reds, if you want to get familiar with Spain wines, it’s going to take more than one or two sips. Luckily, this spring Whole Foods Market makes it easy on you and your budget.
Our stores are celebrating Spain’s wine heritage by featuring 12 exceptional wines all priced under $20. Sample wines from Spain at in-store tastings (check your local store calendar for details), as well as during a Twitter Tasting. Go to wholefoodsmarket.com/wine for more information about the Twitter Tasting and use the hashtag #WFMwine to follow the conversation.
Participants must be 21 years of age or older.
Spanish Wines Twitter Tasting – Apr. 19 at 7 p.m. CST
Visit wholefoodsmarket.com/wine for even more pairing ideas, recipes and information on Spain’s diverse wine regions.
Have you enjoyed tapas and wine while traveling or here at home? We’d love to hear about your favorite flavor combinations.