Spanish Wine Summer Pairing Cheatsheet
As we cautiously ease out of our Covid-19 isolation, we find ourselves looking for ways to safely reconnect outdoors with those around us, enjoying the summer even as we adapt, together, to a new normal.
The days are long, the nights are warm, and the sunshine feels good—looks like it’s time to fire up the grill, chill the wines, and fill the patio (socially distanced, of course) with all of your closest friends and family. Who doesn’t love a good summer cookout?
While deciding what to cook may be a no-brainer, choosing the exact right wines to elevate the occasion can sometimes make you feel as though you wish you had an in-house Master Sommelier. Don’t fear; our handy summer Spanish wine pairing cheatsheet will make you look like you a pro in front of all of your guests in no time.
Gazpacho & Verdejo
This classic Spanish chilled soup of raw vegetables hails from Andalusia and calls for an equally refreshing pairing like veggie-friendly Verdejo from the Rueda region, whose bright acidity and green notes make it a perfect match for Gazpacho.
Cheese Plate and Mixed Nuts & Manzanilla
What’s a cocktail hour without a cheese plate? This summer, get creative and enjoy your aperitif like a true Spaniard with a glass of Manzanilla Sherry. This dry fortified wine from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, a small coastal town in Andalusia, is light, briny, and the ideal counterpoint for a range of cheeses and salted nuts (especially almonds!).
Gambas al Ajillo & Cava
One of Spain’s classic tapas, Gambas al Ajillo—garlic shrimp—is considered to be an ultimate pairing for Cava, the country’s much-loved sparkler, with the wine’s bright bubbles standing up to the dish’s bold flavors, constantly clearing the palate for another bite.
Steamed Razor Clams & Albariño
Albariño from Galicia’s Rías Baixas region always shines with the area’s abundant seafood. For backyard summer cookouts, think steamed razor clams with fresh herbs, olive oil (from Spain, of course!), and a generous squeeze of lemon to finish—and serve with ice-cold Albariño, whose saline and citrus notes and tangy acidity have the power to elevate this pairing to the next level.
Grilled Corn on the Cob & Viura
A wine pairing for grilled corn? Spain’s got you covered with classic white variety Viura from Rioja. Savory herbal notes wrapped around a core of melon and citrus—plus an often richly oxidative palate—make this a surprisingly perfect pairing that will have your friends asking you why you aren’t wearing a Court of Master Sommeliers pin.
Tomato Salad & Mencía
Served with fresh herbs and finished with Spanish olive oil, consider tomato salad your easy alternative to Gazpacho if you need a refreshing starter, but are running out of time before your guests arrive. For pairing, aim for a chilled red like medium-bodied Mencía from Northwestern Spain’s Ribeira Sacra region, often considered the perfect wine for lovers of Beaujolais, Pinot Noir, or even Cabernet Franc.
Pasta Salad & Garnacha
An American cookout classic, pasta salad has always been a bit misunderstood as a wine and food pairing. Think acidity and easygoing fruit as the ideal match to elevate this humble dish, with a Garnacha Rosado from Navarra in Northern Spain showing that even a simple side deserves its own special wine.
Lobster Roll & Godello
If you consider Chardonnay to be the classic lobster pairing, maybe you just haven’t tried native Spanish white grape Godello yet. Creamy, rich, and textured, this full-bodied wine almost fell into obscurity before being saved by forward-thinking Spanish vintners—not to mention that it positively shines with a classic summer lobster roll. Look for examples from Valdeorras.
Burgers & Tempranillo
Is it really a cookout until the burgers hit the grill? Forget the beer this summer and reach for Spain’s classic red Tempranillo, which famously shines under the Rioja appellation. The perfect mix of tannins, fresh red fruit, and a savory, smoky note makes this red a crowd-pleasing complement.
Grilled Ribeye & Tinto Fino
A big, juicy cut of steak calls for an equally rich pairing. Enter the robust red blends of Ribera del Duero, which are made up primarily of Tinto Fino (Tempranillo), and occasionally blended with a supporting cast of other red varieties. Deep and muscular, these wines have the power to single-handedly lift a night grilling on the patio to epic heights of flavor.
Vanilla Ice Cream & Pedro Ximénez
Ice Cream and Sherry? Yes—yes, indeed. Textured, rich, and syrupy sweet, Pedro Ximénez (PX) Sherry shows flavors of burnt sugar, cocoa, and caramel, making it more than just a pairing. . . it also shines as a sundae topping!
Blueberry Pie & Moscatel
Fruit pies may be a classic summer dessert, but that doesn’t mean they’re an easy pairing. Look to Spain’s southern Málaga DO for its famous Moscatel-based sweet wines to solve this puzzling pairing in a way so dazzling it might just have your guests staying late to do the dishes.
Text: Wines from Spain