Monday, December 10, 2012

Spanish Wine Tasting Party and Tapas

There are so many great wines out there that I have yet to explore.  I recently read Spain has one of the largest grape varieties in the world (wikipedia says over 600).  In an effort to learn about wines from another country, I decided to have a Spanish wine tasting party!  I read through many websites and it seemed the best way to expose your palette to wines from another country is to explore the range of available wines starting from the bubbly to the white wines and finally comparing multiple reds (one younger and one older).

Many spanish laws related to the classification of how long a wine must be aged have been put in place. The most common three are as follows:
     red - aged for at least 2 years (> 6 months in oak)
     white & rosé - aged for at least 1 years (> 6 months in oak)
     red - aged for at least 3 years (> 12 months in oak)
     white & rosé - aged for at least 2 years (> 6 months in oak)
Gran Reserva:
     red - aged for at least 5 years (> 18 months in oak)
     white & rosé - aged for at least 4 years (> 6 months in oak)

When I went to the store, I didn't have particular bottles of wine in mind. Instead, I asked for wines in the $10-15 range starting with a cava (Spain's version of champagne), one albariño, two riojas (one crianza, one reserva) and finally a sherry.

Here are the wines we picked and in order of tasting (from left to right):

1) Segura Viudas Aria Brut, Penedes region, Spain (blend of macabre, parellada, and xarel-lo grapes)
2) 2010 Vionta Albariño, Riax Baixas, Spain (albariño grape)
3) 2008 Cune Rioja Crianza, Rioja, Spain (tempranillo grape)
4) 2006 Cune Rioja Reserva, Rioja, Spain (tempranillo grape) - This one was the only over $15, but it was highly suggested and close enough to the budget.
5) Lustau Solera Reserva Pedro Ximenez San Emilio, Andalusia region, Spain (pedro ximenez grape)

Since we were tasting spanish wines, we needed spanish tapas of course! :)  Here is the line up of the three tapas.

Manchego cheese (aged 1 year), chorizo, olives, crusty bread
This was by far the easiest to make. Just chop everything up and place on plate.  This was perfect to snack on at the beginning of the tasting with the cava.

Shrimp in garlic sauce (Gambas al Ajillo)
This recipe is very simple too.  I didn't follow a particular recipe because I used my mom's recipe for shrimp scampi, but just omitted the pasta.   The albariño was nice and light (good pairing with the shrimp). 

- 1 lb of shrimp
- 1/3 cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 1/3 cup of white wine
- 1/3 cup of canola oil
- 2 garlic cloves
- handful of parsley
- salt and pepper

1) Finely chop garlic and parsley. Mix garlic, parsley, lemon juice, white wine, canola oil and seasoning together. Set aside marinade (can be done early).

2) Clean and de-veine shrimp.  20 minutes before you are ready to cook the shrimp, let shrimp marinate in lemon garlic marinade in refrigerator.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

3) After 20 minutes marinating, place shrimp and marinade in a baking dish in the oven for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn on broil in oven and cook for additional 4-5 minutes.  Keep a close eye on the shrimp.   This recipe can also be used for shrimp scampi too! 

Patas Bravas
This was slightly more complicated than the first two tapas, but well worth the effort!  Bravas refers to the spicy or "fierce" tomato sauce with a bit of tabasco.  Moving along in the wine tasting, I thought the potatoes were hearty enough to pair with the riojas (red wines). 

- 2 lbs of baking potatoes (russet) 
- canola oil, salt, pepper
- For the sauces you can pick whatever you'd like, but I made a spicy tomato sauce and simple mayonnaise

1) Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2'' chunks.  Place in large pot with cold water. Bring potatoes to a boil (~7-8 minutes) then immediately drain and cool potatoes under cold water to stop the cooking process. This is just to parboil the potatoes. 

2) After cooling the potatoes, pour oil in a large pan and place a single layer of potatoes in it to cook on medium to high heat. If the pan is not hot enough the potato will just absorb the oil instead of turning a nice golden brown.  Once potatoes seem brown on one side, flip them over and let them cook on another side until you have achieved the golden brown color.  After, remove potatoes to a paper towel to drain any excess oil and lightly coat with salt.  This may be need to be done in batches depending on the size of your pan.

3) Sauces. I made two sauces: a quick mayonnaise (or aioli) and a spin off of these two spicy tomato sauces (1) and (2). The tomato sauce began by sauteing 1/2 diced onion until golden and pureeing 1 can of diced tomatoes in a food processor.  Add tomatoes to onion mixture. Add apple cider vinegar, tabasco sauce, spanish paprika, sugar, salt, pepper. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 15 minutes.

We finished the tasting with the sherry (very sweet as noted on bottle).  Overall, I really enjoyed learning about the different grape varieties and their respective regions in Spain.  Hopefully it will come in handy if I ever make it to Spain someday!