Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pairing Paella

Paella - the dish that launched a thousand interpretations. This culinary diversity makes for a wine pairing challenge. Fortunately, the Wine Armada, armed with tasting experience in both Paella and Spanish vino, has risen to this occasion presented by a friend’s dinner invitation. The words “we’ll cook, if you bring the wine,” is music to our ears.

We christened our journey with one of the “Kings of Cava”, Segura Viudas Brut Reserva. While simple, inexpensive cavas are always crowd pleasers, this bubbly adds new found depth, and richness, to the palate for only a few dollars more. It was absolutely delicious on it’s own, but catapulted our first course of balsamic-drizzled tomatoes, and steamed mussels, to new gastronomic levels.

A series of wines were then opened, and ready for their orders, when the Paella was served. First out of the dock was a rare find, Montecillo Blanco. While I thought the 2007 vintage was possibly past its prime, others on board were extremely pleased. Even a few “I drink mostly-red wine" crew members were captured by the classy restraint, and minerality, of this White Rioja.

The 2010 Bodegas Borsao 'Campo de Borja' Garnacha Rosado was next in line and the fresh strawberry/red raspberry aromas quickly seduced everyone. More of the same red berry flavors pleased the palate with a clean, refreshing finish. The quality of this rose' made it quite obvious why this segment of the wine market has seen such explosive growth recently.

The classic Paella pairing of red Rioja was next, with two diverse styles ready to test the waters. The 2009 Montebuena Rioja was the youngster of the pair, offering a beautiful blend of red cherry, great acidity and a long, pure aftertaste. The 2006 Bodegas Lan Rioja Crianza was deeper and darker, with black cherry, leather and spice notes, but more astringent tannins than one would expect from a five-year old wine.

This particular Paella was perfectly prepared, containing more seafood and chicken, with a smaller quantity of chorizo. This meal continued to confirm I am a huge fan of white Rioja (Viura) with this style of Paella. The Montecillo Blanco's subtly, and minerality, was in glorious harmony with the ingredients in the dish. The Montebuena Rioja was a second-place finisher, with great fruit, and impeccable balance, that would satisfy the “red wine only” audience.

While the other wines were also quite good, they fell to the rear of the fleet with this particular Paella. The Rosado being too fruit-forward, and would be a better match with barbeque chicken or cheese enchiladas. The big, bold structure of the Rioja Crianza would best be served with steak hot off the grill or pot roast.

Let the Armada know your Paella wine pairing preference, and what discoveries you've made in the wide world of Spanish wine and cuisine.