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The Final Spanish Wine & Cheese Pairing Information


Chow down on nice Spanish wine and cheese, courtesy of James Beard Award-winning writer Laura Werlin.



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In Ribera del Duero, the native grape known as Tempranillo has been evolving on this distinctive rising area for 1,000 years. Across the valley and over the river, Verdejo, the signature grape of Rueda, thrives as Spain’s primary white wine. Collectively, the 2 areas are generally known as Spain’s most prestigious wine areas.

Understanding what makes the wines so particular can also be key to discovering their excellent meals pairings. Luckily for wine and meals lovers, the winemaking groups in Ribera and Rueda make it straightforward.

A sip of a Ribera Tempranillo – the king of grapes in Spain – calls to thoughts a spot the place castles dot the land very similar to the grapevines. These castles symbolize Spain’s historical past and an intrinsic energy that travels all the way in which to the glass, which is why the roasted meats of the area – particularly, the newborn lamb generally known as lechazo and the suckling pig known as cochinillo – or those we make in our personal backyards name for this wine.

The connection doesn’t cease there. Gathered round a desk, we’re doing greater than consuming this distinctive wine – we’re additionally taking a style of historical past whereas soaking within the joys of group.

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When pairing dishes with Tempranillo, contemplate richer, heartier meals which might be complicated and layered complimented by notes of black pepper, rosemary, sage, mushroom, darkish chocolate, anise and smoke.

The tasting profile for Tempranillo could be ripe, muscular fruit flavors, structured with vigorous acidity, darkish cherry, blackberry bramble, dried fig, vanilla and cassis. Youthful Tempranillos pair with the widest vary of dishes like boldly seasoned fish, roasted birds, calmly smoked and charred proteins.

As the wines tackle bottle and oak getting old, they develop complexity whereas medium tannins turn out to be extra elegant, and forest, damp earth, baking spices and leather-based traits turn out to be extra distinguished. The aged wines can deal with heat-induced meat sugars, crusted with herbs, umami wealthy sauces excellent for pairing with compelling dishes layered with flavors and unctuous textures.

Wedges of Manchego, roasted Marcona almonds, skinny slices of Ibérico ham, and possibly some dried figs out of your native specialty meals store is usually a nice begin or finish to any event. The backside line is that Ribera Tempranillo loves most meals and vice-versa. For this purpose, it is a perfect pairing wine.

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Sometimes known as the lioness of grapes for its understated energy and but silkiness in addition to its geographical residence in Castilla y León (“lion”), Rueda Verdejo is almost inseparable from the Spanish desk. In truth, it’s no accident that it’s Spain’s number-one promoting white wine. It goes with all kinds of meals irrespective of the place it’s being poured. 

The excellent news is that you just don’t should be in Spain to get pleasure from Verdejo. Think of it because the United Nations of white wines. It finds companionship with all kinds of meals as a result of it’s elegant and sleek. Citrus and stone fruits fill out the fragrant profile whereas vigorous acidity and white peach bounce to the fore on the palate.

With a little bit of bottle getting old, Verdejo develops physique and texture. So too because the lees (spent yeast cells) and oak are built-in into the method. The finish result’s extra creaminess and depth. The spice field complementing Verdejo consists of extremely fragrant herbs in addition to perfumed, sharp, and citrus-like spices. A French dressing with Thai basil, turmeric, dill, and coriander or punchy sauces spooned over tender proteins and clean fat will carry the perfect out in Verdejo of just about any fashion.

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Another technique to go along with Verdejo is to serve it with grilled fish. Lap that with a buttery sauce and put a country loaf of herby bread on the desk, and the pairing is full – and memorable.

Or take Spanish conservas – tinned fish. This might not be the very first thing you consider once you consider wine pairings, however categorically these will very seemingly be the perfect variations of fish in a are you able to’ll ever style – significantly the tuna. Packed in buttery Spanish olive oil, the meaty tuna takes on a richness and just-right tuna style that makes it inconceivable to not eat instantly from the can. Besides, who’s trying?

The identical is true with meaty olives. An acid pushed wine like Verdejo will lower the richness of the olives and go away you wanting extra — all of the extra purpose to additionally seize Spanish picos – breadstick-like crackers (or breadsticks themselves in case you’d like) – and paper-thin slices of Jamon Serrano, prosciutto, locally-made ham, and salami.

Because you could be sharing these very sharable provisions, the context is certainly one of togetherness and connection – connection to wine, to area, and to at least one one other. In the tip, excellent meals and wine pairings don’t get higher than this.

The backside line is {that a} Rueda Verdejo with bottle age and complex winemaking methods is a world-class wine that may go face to face with Sancerre, different Loire white wines, and Bordeaux Blanc, whether or not it’s on a wine shelf or on the desk – or each.

Red, white, Spain — and blue too. That’s virtually all you have to bear in mind relating to pairing cheese with its excellent Spanish wine companions. The “almost” half is the very fact the wines aren’t simply any Spanish crimson and white wines. Instead, we’re speaking Ribera Tempranillo and Rueda Verdejo. Both wines say cheese each time. Part of this has to do with the various kinds of Verdejo and Tempranillo.

The 3 Styles Of Verdejo

Verdejo has three major kinds – joven, lees-aged, and oak-aged. Understanding every is essential to discovering the right pairings.

Joven means younger in Spanish and within the case of Verdejo, interprets to approachable, mild, vivid patio-style wines with hints of grapefruit, lemon, and lime. Think pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc with a Spanish accent.

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Lees-aged means the wine spends time on the spent yeast cells known as lees. In flip, this takes the wine in a creamy course giving it extra physique and textures. The acidity of the grape stays, and in live performance with the wealthy mouthfeel, inches into Chablis-like territory.

Oak-aged is simply that. The wines spend some period of time in impartial or typically new oak barrels or casks, and whereas not oaky, the grape takes on a delicate weight on the palate, extra developed textures, and creaminess that solely oak can create. This oak getting old can also be a testomony to the flexibility of Verdejo. Very few white grapes could be launched each younger and aged — normally, it’s one or the opposite. Not Verdejo, which excels in any respect ages and phases.

In addition to being an excellent sippable wine, Verdejo sidles as much as cheese like a cowboy to a saddle. It’s a pure pair. Whether from Spain or the United States, cheeses of every kind discover comradeship with the various kinds of Verdejo.

Verdejo, Meet Goat Cheese

One of these is Humboldt Fog. Made by Cypress Grove in Arcata, California, this iconic American goat cheese is probably essentially the most wine-friendly cheese of any made on this planet. It’s considerably lemony however not an excessive amount of. It’s earthy however not goaty. It’s creamy and mouth-filling, but it’s mild and vivid. In different phrases, the traits of this cheese are the identical as lots of these you discover in Verdejo.

The identical is true for MitiCaña Caña de Cabra and Leonora, two of Spain’s wonderful goat cheeses. Like Humboldt Fog, each cheeses fall within the soft-ripened cheese class, which means that the cheese will get softer just below the white bloomy rind because it ages. These too have lemony flavors and creaminess on the palate. Because of their vivid flavors but lingering mouthfeel, this fashion of cheese takes to the joven and lees-aged kinds of Verdejo significantly nicely.

Just to button up the Spanish goat cheese class, the comparatively uncommon Monte Enebro finds concord with all kinds of Verdejo and – bonus – some Tempranillos too. Its earthiness and skinny blue mildew on the outside guarantee this. In different phrases, attempt each!

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Cream And The Crop

Because of Verdejo’s taste and textural vary, goat cheeses aren’t its solely cheese friends. Triple-creams take to Verdejo fairly nicely too. Take Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam. Somewhat firmer than most triple-cream cheeses, this cheese tastes like butter in cheese kind with an ever-so-slight tang on the end. It’s virtually as if the cheese is aware of it’s so wealthy it had higher tame itself by ending on a excessive be aware. 

The finest wines are the identical – correct acidity to steadiness the richness and fruit.

In Verdejo-speak, a lees- and oak-aged model loves the butteriness in a cheese like Mt. Tam. It additionally has the correct acidity to steadiness the cheese’s richness. Call it something you need — yin-yang, cream-to-my-coffee, salt-in-my-stew – however what’s clear is {that a} richer fashion Verdejo and a cheese like this one are, nicely, two peas in a pod.

Firmly In The Verdejo Camp

Soft, creamy, and buttery cheeses aren’t Verdejo’s solely pals. The lees- and oak-aged variations additionally pair with 6-month aged Manchego (Spain’s unofficial nationwide cheese) and Wisconsin’s Roth Cheese Grand Cru Reserve – an in depth cousin of Swiss Gruyére.

While Manchego is made with sheep’s milk and Grand Cru Reserve with cow’s milk, they each share a nuttiness and lengthy end. They’re additionally wealthy. Bring on the lees and oak-aged Verdejo, whose acidity will refresh the palate and whose medium-bodied texture will maintain its personal within the presence of the sturdy cheeses. 

A Happy Marriage

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If white wine and cheese isn’t your factor, then Ribera del Duero Tempranillo and cheese shall be. As we’ve realized by now, Tempranillo runs the flavour gamut from fruity and instantly approachable to complicated, balanced tannins, acidity, herbaceousness, and darkish fruits.

This vary of flavors and medium- to full-bodied texture ensures there’s a cheese for just about each fashion and age of Ribera Tempranillo. Once you uncover the wines, deciding on its finest cheese companions turns into a complete lot simpler. Did we are saying enjoyable?

Opposites Attract

Given the various kinds of Tempranillo, it comes as no shock that it has a number of pals in cheeses. When it involves one of many grape’s higher cheese companions, look no additional than Spanish Mahón Reserva.

Made in part of Spain diagonally reverse from Ribera del Duero, this cow’s milk cheese hails from the scenic island of Menorca off the southwest coast of Spain. The cheese, distinctive due to its sq. form with barely rounded corners and vivid orange pimentón-rubbed rind, is aged for a couple of 12 months. In that point, it develops nutty, piquant, and even candy flavors. 

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With cheese-age comes knowledge, and due to that, Mahón has sufficient character to face as much as the earth and fruit in Tempranillo however not a lot in order that it dominates. The semi-hard texture of the cheese takes the pairing a step additional by offering a textural distinction with the graceful, virtually silky, physique of the wine.

Also reverse, on this case taste, not geography, is the matching of Tempranillo and blue cheese. This could be difficult since you don’t need too highly effective a model of the wine – one which’s excessive on the oaky facet or significantly acidic. In each circumstances, most blue cheeses will exaggerate these traits – ones which might be important to nice wine however finest when in steadiness.

But once you discover the precise blue – one which’s just a little earthy, low on the pungent scale, has balanced salt, and a medium-creamy texture, nicely, that’s a complete different story. 

For occasion, Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company in Point Reyes, California, churns out the distinctive Bay Blue – a Stilton-like cheese that’s not solely scrumptious by itself but additionally occurs to go completely with a medium-bodied, fruit-forward Tempranillo. Its earthy, fudgy, toasted nut flavors, and candy end guarantee this. Stronger, extra pungent, and in some circumstances, gamy blue cheeses are finest paired with dessert wines.

Counting Sheep

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Maybe among the most pure cheese pairings for Tempranillo are sheep’s milk cheeses. Like Tempranillo, most sheep’s milk cheeses have a pronounced tang totally on the end. In addition, they’re typically wealthy, have just-right salt, are a bit grainy (in a great way), and balanced. 

Take Idiazabal. Hailing from the Basque nation, this semi-hard sheep cheese with a touch of smokiness loves crimson wine, crimson fruit – principally something known as Tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero. It makes for an important after-dinner/before-dessert cheese course, however actually – it’s good anytime, anyplace.

And then there’s Zamorano. Ribera del Duero and Rueda are a part of Spain’s largest so-called autonomous area – Castilla y León. So too is Zamora, residence of its namesake cheese. This uncooked sheep’s milk magnificence is usually in comparison with Manchego however it’s made with the milk of various sheep breeds than Manchego. This is certainly one of its details of distinction. The result’s a cheese with nutty, fruity, buttery, and candy tones. It’s one of the vital scrumptious, balanced sheep’s milk cheese made anyplace on this planet, not simply Spain.

Given Zamorano’s regional provenance, it ought to come as no shock that Tempranillo is its pure wine accomplice. But it isn’t simply that it follows the axiom, “What grows together, goes together.” It’s additionally that Tempranillo’s darker fruit and vivid acidity are the right foil for the uber-rich, buttery, and tangy cheese. Think sweet-savory.

Cross Cultures

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Tempranillo that’s grown alongside the banks of the Duero River is as pure because the cheddar that comes from Vermont. While that doesn’t essentially imply the wine and cheese ought to go collectively, it so occurs that on this case, they do. Really nicely, in truth.

In specific, the cheese known as Cabot Clothbound, made by Cabot Creamery in Cabot, Vermont, and aged on the Cellars at Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Vermont, is the right mate for Tempranillo. The cheese’s earthy notes discover the identical ingredient within the Tempranillo, significantly the Reserva and Gran Reserva classifications, and the candy protein crystals within the cheese love the fruit within the wine.

The identical may very well be mentioned about Beecher’s Flagship cheese. Never thoughts the very fact it’s made in New York and Seattle, not Vermont. The result’s a cheese that’s typically described as a cross between cheddar and Gruyére, which is sort of arduous to think about till you style it.

The Gruyère-like flavors lend a candy nuttiness to the 15-month aged cheese and the cheddar ingredient is savory, barely brothy, but additionally candy. Enter Tempranillo – the Reserva and Gran Reserva. Just as with the Cabot Clothbound, their fuller-bodied, complicated layers love the sweet-savory traits of the cheese.

If you didn’t guess this already, Ribera del Duero Tempranillo and Rueda Verdejo love cheese. Luckily, cheese loves them again. Here’s the way you match them:

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Learn extra about Ribera y Rueda on Instagram @RiberayRuedaWine and don’t overlook to enter to your free Trip to Spain. Be positive to enroll on Drink Real Spain (it’s free to hitch) for entry to the perfect wine collections from Spain. Each month, Drink Real Spain hosts a digital tasting that includes a curated four-bottle assortment with wine superstar Anthony Giglio exploring Verdejo from Rueda and Tempranillo from Ribera. Members of Drink Real Spain are additionally entered in for an opportunity to win superb month-to-month giveaways. 

Now is the time to turn out to be an insider at DrinkRealSpain.com and observe @RiberayRuedaWine – Spain’s most prestigious areas for crimson and white wines.

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Laura Werlin is a James Beard Award-winning writer. Follow her on Instagram @cheezelady.


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