An introduction to Spanish wines and seafood

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Tasca interior.

While French and Italian wines are better known around the world, Spanish wines are among the best in the world and deserve equal recognition. The cuisine of Spain is incredibly diverse and is home to some of the most famous food cities in the world. A key element of Spanish cuisine is the seafood, which ranges from tapas to colorful seafood paella. With this flair for marine flavors, it is not surprising that Spanish wines are an elegant and complex combination with seafood.

Step into Tasca Latin-Caribbean restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The Tasca, the brainchild of restaurateur Jay Espinal and his wife Norisa, is their attempt to create an authentic and upscale Latin-Caribbean restaurant. The food at Tasca is a rich carpet from Spain, Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. While the meat and vegetables are superbly prepared, the menu really shines when it comes to the seafood. First-class dishes such as grilled octopus with purple potatoes and prawns with forest mushrooms are impeccably prepared and particularly tasty, paired with a glass of Spanish wine from Tasca’s impressive wine program.

“We 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 was curated through tastings of over 5,000 bottles with trips to Spain and over 30 specialist events and tastings. “

Introduction to Spanish wines

Two white wine glasses cheering outside.

The range of Spanish wines is immense with an endless amount of variations, styles and flavors. To understand Spanish wines, one must first understand the regions. Wines in Spain are defined by their regions or DO (denomination de Origen), with each DO having its own rules for winemaking (e.g. which grapes can be grown). A great element of Spanish wines is that the variations are endless, even if the regions use similar grapes. “The nice thing about Spain is that the same Tempranillo (grape variety) has a completely different representation from different DOs or regions,” said Espinal.

The main wine regions of Spain

Priory Region

This region in northeastern Spain is known for great, opulent, earthy and mineral-rich wines.

Ribera del Duero wine region

Ribera del Duero is located on the northern plateau of Spain and uses many old Tempranillo grapes (known in the region as “Tinto Fino”). This region is notorious for its hot days and cool nights, all of which are excellent grape conditions.

Bierzo wine region

Bierzo is located in the northwestern province of León. The cooler climate here is ideal for Mencia grapes, which produce medium-bodied wines with a lot of minerality.

Rioja wine region

Regarded by some as Spain’s definitive wine region, 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

This area on the southern tip of Spain is known for sherries, very dry manzanilla and the sweet, opulent Pedro Ximenez.

The best Spanish seafood pairs

Paella Valenciana from Tasca Restaurant in NYC.
Paella Valenciana from Tasca.

Since seafood is a huge part of Spanish cuisine, the number of possible wine combinations in Spanish wines is endless. Seafood, from white fish to salty shellfish and oily mackerel, all pair with a variety of wines that can bring out those flavors. Espinal has a personal preference for Godello, a white wine from Valdeorras made for oily fish. For shellfish, he recommends a Xarello, Txakoli or a crunchy Albariño, depending on the preparation.

In general, white wine is considered the ideal pairing for seafood. White wine is more acidic (similar to lemon juice on fish) and a natural addition to seafood. In comparison, red wine is often paired with steak or other meat. Red wines are high in tannins, which help penetrate the fat and heaviness of red meat, allowing the wine to release more of its complex fruit flavors.

However, according to Espinal, this general advice is not always the case. “I like Descendente de los Palacios Corullon Moncerbal as a red wine with seafood,” says Espinal. “Your entire Bierzo lineup actually goes well with seafood.”

What to buy

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

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