Since Columbus Day was this week, we thought it would be fun to explore something not only of Spanish origin, but also wine-related, and voilà, (¡eso!) Tapas!
Tapas – bite sized morsels of food – are a celebration of Spanish culture and social life. The word ‘tapa’ means cover, and one theory of its origin is that, in days gone by, bartenders covered their patrons’ goblets of wine (or beer) with a piece of bread to prevent flies from landing in them. The explanation I prefer, however, is that each drink served in the pubs of Spain is accompanied by a small bite of food to help absorb the alcohol. This not only keeps down the number of unruly drunks, it also enables the patrons to buy more wine.
There are a wide variety of dishes that can be served as tapas, but a few traditional standbys are a must for any menu. For example, no tapas party is complete without some kind of pork (ideally Jamón Ibérico), marinated olives, and almonds – otherwise you’re just having appetizers!
If you’ve never had your own tapas and wine party before, we thought you might like a little help in planning one. In fact, we kind of feel like it’s our job to help you find the perfect wines to accompany the variety of tastes, textures and heat levels represented in a tapas menu.
One such wine is Pinot Grigio. There are many different styles and most wine producers offer at least one of them, but in my opinion a nice dry (meaning not sweet) Italian Pinot Grigio is the way to go. It’s dry, a little tart, ever so slightly sweet, and goes with just about everything! Whether you’re eating Padron Peppers with goat Cheese or Creamed Mussels with Saffron, your Italian Pinot Grigio will balance the flavors perfectly.
Another wonderful selection for your tapas party is the dry (there’s that not sweet thing again) Spanish sherry, Oloroso. Now before you get too worried, let me ease your mind – not all sherries are created equal, and not just any sherry will do, but a good oloroso bears no resemblance to the cheap stuff you might have had before. Sip on a rich, nutty oloroso sherry along with that honeyed figs and serrano ham tapa and you’ll almost think you’re in Spain! Be sure to serve it chilled, but not as cold as you would serve the Pinot Grigio.
If you want to serve a true tapa classic, you can’t go wrong with the “king of tapas” – Tortilla Espanola – “potatoes and onions fat with olive oil and bound with egg into a neat little cake” (NYT). I might even go so far as to say that it’s a requirement! This can be cut into triangles and served with a Sauvignon Blanc, which is another “pairs with everything” favorite.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share at least one tapa that pairs with Sangria, and Albondigas (Spanish Meatballs) are a perfect choice. They’re a bit labor intensive to make, but if you’re willing to take the time the rewards are SO worth it! Otherwise, I’m sure you can find a tapas restaurant nearby and pick some up, along with anything else you might want to serve. In Atlanta, there’s a tapas bar in practically every intown neighborhood.
Rather than “if” I’ll say WHEN you have that tapas and wine party, I hope this mini guide is helpful…and that you’ll invite us over for it!