Rioja offers some of the best ‘food’ wines in the world and are ‘perfect partners‘ to a huge range of culinary styles. While it’s a no-brainer that they pair brilliantly with foods from Spain, and other Mediterranean countries, here is a little primer on some less typical matches.
Cosecha: Juicy, full of fruit flavors and softly structured, these wines are slam dunks with everything from grilled turkey sausage with polenta, to Chinese spareribs, from babaghanoush to buffalo wings (try it if you don’t believe us) or even a ham and swiss panini.
Crianza: These wines still retain a lot of fruit character and acidity but, because of their aging, start to take on some tannins. Because of the balance of acidity and softer tannins, these wines are perfect for SO many dishes. We’re talking any combination of meat and tomato sauce; spaghetti and meatballs, veal parmigiana, osso bucco, burger and ketchup. Then, there is meat and cheesebaked chicken breasts stuffed with mushrooms and goat cheese, carnitas burritos, hot roast beef and cheddar on rye, burger with ketchup and pepper jack. Not to mention meat and cream or butter. Prime rib with a loaded baked potato, indeed. Crianzas are perfect partners to grilled pork chops and steak frites. Lest we forget the vegetarians, any hearty vegetable stew, veggie lasagna, French onion soup, veggie burger with ketchup. Guess we need to stop at some point.
Reserva: This is where ‘structure’ really comes into play. Rioja Reservas, because of their age, develop firm tannins. Tannins are meant to cut through protein. Ever take a sip of a big red wine that totally dries out your gums and makes your tongue feel like sandpaper, but when your steak comes, and you take a bite, the wine is suddenly soft and delicious — the best pairing you could ever possibly imagine with meat? Sirloin steak with demi-glace, grilled ribeye, cassoulet, grilled lamb chops, burger with foie gras, forget the ketchup.
Gran Reserva: Consider these dinner. Drink and think.
WHITES & ROSÉS
Cosecha: These wines are young and fresh, crisp and refreshing with clean acidity. Acid in wine does a couple of things when paired with food. It compliments other bright, fresh flavors. Ever squeeze a lime on your salsa? It also serves to cut through fat in fried foods, cream sauces, etc. What would fish and chips be without a wedge of lemon or some malt vinegar. Sushi anyone?
Rosé: Typically made with Garnacha, sometimes Tempranillo (or a blend of both), Rioja Rosés have a barely perceptible touch of textural astringency (the result of minimal grape skin contact) and good acidity, making them surprisingly versatile food wines. Usually unoaked.