*Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by RIOJA WINE. All opinions are my own.
When I want to prepare a special meal for us, tapas and a good bootle of red wine are always high on the list. Tapas are fun to prepare, eat and share with the ones you love.
What are tapas exactly? They are small snacks (canapés) served in Spanish bars alongside drinks. Even though they are meant as little bites, I love eating several tapas with a high-quality Spanish wine as a main meal. There is something so enjoyable about getting to eat small servings of many different flavours and textures in just one meal. Maybe my tastebuds are a bit greedy, but good food and wine are two of life’s little pleasures.
The concept of tapas is not only a popular one in Spain, nowadays people around the world have incorporated traditional Spanish tapas with their own local cuisines. Tapas have long been high up on the food pedestal and their modern evolution has skyrocketed them into spectacular culinary heights. If you’ve never eaten tapas then you are seriously missing out.
For our latest romantic tapas dinner I incorporated traditional Spanish flavours with touches of Mexico and Denmark. I served patatas alioli (or alioli potatoes) with cilantro instead of parsley, a type of cured Spanish sausage (salchichon español), fried Serrano peppers sprinkled with sea salt (in lieu of Padron peppers), creamy Danish blue cheese, pimento asado (roasted sweet peppers), chopped shrimp cooked with smoked paprika (to make for easier servings on bread), black and green olives, slices of a crunchy baguette from the bakery and an excellent bottle of Rioja red wine. The meal consisted of salty, spicy, sweet, tart, creamy and crunchy tastes and textures. The meal was an absolute success — it was a match made in foodie heaven!
- 1 large baguette, sliced
- black and green olives
- Spanish cured sausage or Serrano ham
- Danish blue cheese
- 1 large yellow bell pepper, stem and seeds removed and cut in half
- 1 large orange bell pepper, stem and seeds removed and cut in half
- 1 large poblano pepper, stem and seeds removed and cut in half
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- large pinch of sea salt and of ground black pepper
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- pinch of oregano
- half a batch of this alioli potato recipe (substitute parsley for cilantro)
- 250 gms shrimp, cleaned, tail removed and chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1.5 tbsp olive oil
- large pinch of sea salt
- 1 heaping tbsp smoked paprika
- fresh Serrano peppers, cleaned and patted dry
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- fine sea salt
- Heat the oven to 190c or 375f and line a baking sheet with baking paper, set aside. Mix all of the spices and oil until well combined. After cleaning the peppers rub the oil and spice mixture until each pepper half is well coated. Place on baking sheet with inside of pepper facing down and roast 20 minutes then flip and roast for another 10-15 minutes until they are completely soft. (Pay extra attention to the poblano because they are thinner and it can burn.) Remove from the oven and baking sheet and place on a plate. Allow to cool then peel away the skin, plate and set aside until ready to serve.
- Please follow the instructions on the recipe here.
- Heat the oil and sauté the garlic until soft. Next add the shrimp and cook until firm and when they have turned pink. Quickly mix in the paprika and sea salt and stir until they have coated the shrimp well. Allow to cook another 4 minutes, turn heat off and place inside serving container until ready to serve.
- Heat the oil in and once hot add the chiles. Allow to brown and softened -- about 5-8 minutes. Remove from pan and sprinkle with sea salt right before serving.
- Arrange a plate with the fried Serrano peppers, blue cheese slices and Spanish cured sausage. Place the bread slices in a large container or basket. The sweet roasted peppers too should be placed inside a serving bowl/plate -- as should be the cooked shrimp. Make sure to have plenty of serving utensils for each tapa. Allow each person to assemble their tapas as desired and serve with a glass of your favourite Rioja wine.
We all know that good food served with good wine makes for a gourmet experience. Our scrumptious tapas dinner could not have been as delicious as it was without the bottle of Crianza red from the Arienzo de Marqués de Riscal vineyard in Spain’s Rioja wine growing region. The wine was a great choice because it complimented all of the tastes and textures of our tapas meal perfectly. The colour is a deep red with scents of fruit, the taste is full, clean and very pleasant. This wine has a lot of character; The gorgeous flavours linger in your mouth without overpowering your tastebuds or food.
Let’s face it, when it comes to wine most of us know very little — other than we like to drink ones that taste good, of course. Like many people, I feel a bit of intimidation when having to choose a bottle of wine. I did some research to help us all shed some of our wine fears. I can honestly tell you that now after having discovered wines from Spain’s Rioja region, I feel less intimidated — and you will too.
Rioja wines are called the best food pairing wines on Earth by many chefs and sommeliers around the world. Who better to trust then these professionals. These wines are created to be ready to drink upon pulling the cork. They are designed with a lower alcohol content and acidity so they can enhance the flavour of food and not overpower it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a white, rose or red that you choose, Rioja wines will pair perfectly with any food you served them with — be it Spanish, Mediterranean, fusion or international dishes. And for those days when you just want to relax with a glass you can’t go wrong with one of these delectable vintages.
I learned so much about Rioja wines and now I’d love to help you choose your own bottle. The first thing you want to look for is the “Denominación de Origen Calificada” or DOCa seal. This ensures that each wine (vineyard) meets the strict qualifications required to be authentically Rioja. The next thing you’ll look for is the classification of wine which denotes the ageing process of the wine. (This applies to all three: white, rose and red wines.) The labels are green for “Cosecha” grade that defines young wines with little or no oak ageing, then there’s the red stamp denoting “Crianza” or wines harvested 2 years ago with a least one year in oak. Next is the burgundy label for “Reserva” that is aged one year in oak and two more in the bottle. Lastly is the “Gran Reserva” which spend at least 2 years in oak and 3 in bottle — but these are wines made for exceptional vintages.
Whichever variety and classification you choose just know that your wallet will not suffer. It is pretty impressive how a very affordable bottle of Rioja wine won’t leave you sacrificing quality or taste. Most of these wines are priced around $15 a bottle but you can even come across a 2004 vintage for around $30 or less — now that’s impressive!
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