Who says hors d’oeuvres have to be fancy? Not the Spanish. In the land of the late-late evening meal, tapas and a glass of wine are the preferred predinner ritual. Olives marinated with herbs, almonds dusted with spices, crunchy roasted potato chunks, and cheese wedges topped with roasted red peppersthese are just a sampling from a Spanish tradition that’s all about savory simplicity.
Spanish Wines 101
Whether you’re serving tapas or just want a nice bottle for dinner, Spanish wines offer big flavor at bargain prices. “In the past 20 years, Spanish wines have undergone a great change and gotten lighter and fresher. And they’re still undervalued,” explains Michael Weiss, professor of wine at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and coauthor of WineWise. Here, a few types to look for:
Albariño Light, fruity white wine made from Albariño grapes.
Cava This Spanish bubbly offers the best value in sparkling wine, according to Weiss. “Brut is especially versatile and can go with a wide range of foods, and prices range from $8 to $20 for good-quality cavas.”
Jumilla These fruity reds have undergone a taste revolution. “They’re off the beaten track, so any of them have to be good, otherwise they wouldn’t be imported,” says Weiss.
Ribeiro Named for the region in Galicia where they’re made, Ribeiros are crisp, light whites.
Rioja The most famous wine region of Spain produces full-bodied reds, crisp whites, and dry rosés. Gran Reserva Riojas have been aged two years in oak barrels and three years in bottles and have rich, complex flavors, says Weiss.
Verdejo Smooth, full-bodied wine similar to Sauvignon Blanc.
get the recipes
Patatas bravas means “fierce potatoes,” and hot smoked Spanish paprika gives the sauce for these roasted spuds an addictive bite. Spoon the sauce over the potatoes, or serve in a bowl along with toothpicks for dunking the potato wedges.more
Tapas-style almonds are traditionally deep-fried in oil, but this recipe gets the same crunchy results from oven roasting.more
Marinated Red Bell Peppers and Manchego Cheese
Sweet, smoky roasted red bell peppers pair with Spain’s revered manchego cheese for a sublime tapas dish. If you can’t find manchego, substitute thin slices of pecorino Romano.more
Herb-laced Olive Medley
An overnight soak in a marinade of olive oil, garlic, lemon, and herbs turns plain olives into a taste sensation. This recipe calls for brine-cured olives, but you can use any type you prefer, even canned.more