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Lou's Summer Passport - Third Stop: Spain

Lou's Summer Passport - Third Stop: Spain

Hola! We’re in Spain for the final stop on my summer passport tour!

I adore Spanish wines, and not just because I love Spanish cuisine. It’s so much more than that for me. There’s a heritage and authenticity I can actually taste in Spanish varietals that resonates with my passion for wine. I suppose I could make that case for French and Italian wines, too, but I do find myself experiencing a Spanish wine with an openness that is unique.

Meredith and I definitely love to crush on all kinds of wines, but I think I’ll go on record here and say I’m rock steady when it comes to my feelings about Tempranillo and Garnacha. These two varietals consistently hit all of the right notes for me whether I’m sipping on one from California or one directly from Spain. It’s a love affair I consistently find myself exploring every chance I get, and on this imaginary getaway, I’m finding myself lingering in Rioja — which might just be my favorite growing region in all of Spain.

Located North Central Spain, Rioja is about 120 Miles south of Bilbao, and this wine region produces 280 to 300 million liters of wine annually, of which 90% is red and the rest is a mixture of white and rosé. But check out all of the amazing wines this region is known for: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuela (Carignan), Maturana, Viura (Macabeo), Garnacha Blanca, Malvasía, Chardonnay, and Maturana Blanca.

So clearly, there is a lot of wine to experience and explore in this region!

I could go on and on about how the gorgeous Tempranillo I’m sipping on right now, but first, I want to make a little pivot, if you will, and talk about one of my favorite ways that Spain celebrates the full wine experience. It’s called tapas!

I bet you’ve heard of tapas before — they are those small plates of food they serve in Spanish-themed restaurants. But what you might not realize is how central the pairing of wine and food is to this style of eating. And depending on who you ask, there are a lot of fun stories about how they became so popular in Spain.

I think my favorite story centers around the Spanish King Philipe III. The story goes that he noticed that his workers were very sluggish after drinking, so he ordered that all alcohol was to be served with a “light snack.” To me, that particular king knew exactly how I like to roll!  But I also kind of like the one about the Spanish king "Alfonso the Wise." After an illness, this king had to take small bites of food with some wine between meals, and after he recovered, this super smart king decreed that "no wine was to be served in any of the inns in the land of Castile, unless accompanied by something to eat." When someone in power makes an edict that wine and food should be experienced together, I can absolutely support that rule — especially when we're talking about my favorite Spanish varietals!

There are several other stories to support this traditional style of eating, but in more modern times, it’s undeniable that a tapas-focused experience is really all about showcasing the wine and creating an amazing wine experience. In Spain, the key to a perfect pairing centers on Mediterranean-style dishes that feature local ingredients. It’s the most perfect way to express the bounty right alongside the wines. And the best tapas for me are the ones that keep things clean and simple.

A beautiful plate of Manchego cheese adds the perfectly salty-creamy accompaniment to the blackberry and lightly spiced Tempranillo in my glass. This combination creates a magical moment that I can get lost in because the flavors are absolutely meant to pair together!

If you want to join me in Spain, I suggest a trip to your local wine shop, followed by a quick pitstop at your favorite gourmet food store where you can get your hands on some Spanish cheese! At the wine shop, ask the shopkeeper to help you explore the wines of Rioja — you’ll almost always find a wonderful selection and the prices for a good bottle of red won’t break the bank. And at the cheese shop, some of my favorites (other than Menchego, of course) include Cabrales, Mahon, and Tetilla. Wine and cheese is such a simple pairing, but when it’s this combination, you’ll understand perfectly why edicts, decrees, and enduring rules for serving tapas makes so much sense!

So I guess this is where I’ll end my world wine tour this summer. But that’s what makes a mental journey with wine as your tour guide so incredibly special. I can escape whenever I want and all I have to do is open up a bottle and share my experiences with friends like you!

Adiós

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