An introduction to Spanish wines and seafood

Interior of Tasca.

While French and Italian wines are perhaps best known around the world, Spanish wines are among the best in the world and deserve equal recognition. Spanish cuisine is incredibly diverse and is home to some of the most famous food towns in the world. Seafood, which ranges from tapas to colorful paella filled with shellfish, is a staple of Spanish cuisine. Because of this flair for flavors of the ocean, it’s no surprise that Spanish wines are an elegant and complex marriage with seafood.

Enter Latin Caribbean Tasca Restaurant, located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Imagined by restaurateur Jay Espinal and his wife Norisa, Tasca is their attempt to create an authentic and high-end Latin Caribbean restaurant. The food in Tasca is a rich tapestry of Spain, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. While their meats and vegetables are superbly executed, the menu really shines when it comes to seafood. First class dishes like grilled octopus with purple potatoes and prawns with wild mushrooms are impeccably cooked and particularly delicious. accompanied by a glass of Spanish wine from Tasca’s impressive wine list.

“We have tried to make the wine list representative of the restaurant with a contrast between the New World and the Old World,” said Espinal. “80% of the wine list comes from Spain. The wine has been organized by tasting over 5,000 bottles with trips to Spain and over 30 trade events and tastings.

Introduction to Spanish wines

Two white wine glasses clapping outside.

The scale of Spanish wines is immense with an endless amount of variation, styles and flavors. To understand Spanish wines, the first thing to grasp are the regions. Wines in Spain are defined by their regions or DO (designation of origin), each DO having its own winemaking rules (like the grapes that can be planted). A great element of Spanish wines is that even though the regions use similar grapes, the variations are endless. “The beauty of Spain is that the same Tempranillo (wine grape) has a completely different representation from different DOs or regions,” Espinal said.

The main wine regions of Spain

Priorat region

This region of northeastern Spain is renowned for its opulent, earthy, mineral-rich fine wines.

Ribera del Duero wine region

Located on the northern plateau of Spain, Ribera del Duero uses many Tempranillo grape varieties from old vines (known in the region as “tinto fino”). This region is infamous for its hot days and cool nights, all of which are excellent conditions for grapes.

Bierzo wine region

Bierzo is located in the northwestern province of León. Here, the cooler climate is ideal for Mencia grapes, producing medium-bodied wines with lots of minerality.

Rioja wine region

Considered by some to be the quintessential wine region of Spain, La Rioja is famous for its Tempranillo grapes and oak barrels (the traditional style is aged in American oak barrels while the modern style is aged in French oak.)

Jerez wine region

Located at the southern tip of Spain, this region is known for its sherry, very dry manzanilla, and sweet, opulent Pedro Ximenez.

The best Spanish food and wine pairings for seafood

Paella Valenciana from Tasca restaurant in New York.
Paella Valenciana from Tasca.

Since seafood is an integral part of Spanish cuisine, the number of possible wine pairings is endless when it comes to Spanish wines. Seafood, from white fish to salted shellfish and fatty mackerel, all pair with different wines that can accentuate these flavors. Personally, Espinal has a weakness for Godello, a white wine from Valdeorras for oily fish. With shellfish, he recommends a Xarello, a Txakoli, or a crispy Albariño according to the preparation.

Generally, white wine is considered the ideal pairing with seafood. White wine is more acidic (similar to lemon juice on fish) and a natural complement to seafood. In comparison, red wine is often paired with steak or other meats. Red wines are rich in tannins which help remove fat and heaviness from red meat, allowing the wine to release more of its complex fruit aromas.

However, in Espinal’s opinion, this common advice is not always the case. “I like the Descendiente de los Palacios Corullon Moncebal in red with seafood,” said Espinal. “Their entire range of Bierzo pairs well with seafood.”

What to buy

If you want to try Spanish wines for yourself, Espinal recommends that you start with the main regions of Ribera del Duero, Rioja, Priorat and Bierzo. For white wines, he suggests Rías Baixas, Rueda and Penedes.

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About Irene J. O'Donnell

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