Matching Spanish wine with tapas dishes

It’s that time of year again when many families are gearing up for their summer holidays. And Spain remains one of the most popular destinations all year round, thanks to its mild climate, beautiful scenery and its food and wine.

Whether you’re planning a trip to Spain this year, or you just fancy a tapas feast, we’ve come up with the perfect wine and food pairings. Tapas is ubiquitous in Spain, of course, with small plates of delicious finger food offered in every bar and restaurant possible. In the UK, it has become increasingly popular as it offers a range of tastes and textures and elevates a meal into something more fun.

Tapas appetisers

Generally, expect to be served chunks of Manchego cheese with its distinctive yet mild flavour, juicy olives, salty anchovies and jamón ibérico (a speciality cured ham). These generally feature in a tapas feast as a starter and go beautifully with a Sherry or Cava.

A dry Fino or Manzanilla Sherry can offset the salty flavours nicely. While traditionally, dishes made with salami, chorizo or ham would be served with red wine, these tapas combinations are generally saltier. As such, they make red wine taste more acidy, which can be unpleasant. A dry or sparkling white wine such as Cava, or a dry Sherry works much better.

Cavas provide certain aromas because of the malolactic fermentation that takes place, which balances acidity. The oiler textures of dishes that include anchovies and olives also blend well with a sparkling wine.

Peppery tapas

Dishes such as pan con tomate, padron peppers, Galician octopus and patatas bravas all have a tomato base with peppery spices such as paprika added. Due to the spicy flavours, they go well with rosé wines, including a pink Cava.

Light red wines also work with these kinds of tapas dishes, particularly fresh, unoaked wines. Try something made from indigenous Catalonian grapes such as Sumoll or Trepat. These match very well with small, piquante dishes.

Fried tapas

Fried tapas, including croquetas and calamares (squid) go well with a wine that works to refresh the palate. Tortilla also works well with a more refreshing wine, thanks to its oily base.

A good Sherry, such as Amontillado or Oloroso combine with the flavours of fried tapas beautifully, thanks to the toast aromas created by the oak ageing process. Try the Andalusian fried fish tapas dish called pescaíto frito with a refreshing Sherry to enjoy this flavour combination.

If you don’t fancy Sherry, then go for a young, dry white wine such as Albariño, from Rías Baíxas. With its citrusy notes, it complements the flavours of fried tapas.

Simple Spanish rule

As the food and wine cultures in Spain have evolved together over thousands of years, a simple way to get a good pairing is to go for wine and tapas from the same local area. This guarantees you a good flavour combination as well as the freshest produce.