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 peppers—these 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:
AlbariñoLight, fruity white wine made from Albariño grapes.
CavaThis 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."
JumillaThese 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.
RibeiroNamed for the region in Galicia where they're made, Ribeiros are crisp, light whites.
RiojaThe 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.
VerdejoSmooth, full-bodied wine similar to Sauvignon Blanc.