Matching Wine with Food part one; Spanish paella

It’s my boyfriend, Luke’s 24th birthday today and, as my sister is away from her flat on holiday, we thought we’d go on a little Essex jaunt and stay there for the weekend. This gave me the opportunity to cook a meal without my parents breathing down my neck about making a mess of the kitchen (I always clear it up after, honest!).

As we are both big fans of Spanish/ Mediterranean food, here’s what I decided to make for dinner on Saturday night:

Bread and olives

Goats’ cheese and red pepper salad


Chicken, chorizo and prawn paella


Clementine and Bucks Fizz jellies

What stumped me after deciding on the menu was what wine to serve with the food. Since the goats’ cheese salad and jelly dessert are very light dishes, I would have instantly gone with a white, but a bit of Googling suggested a red wine such as a Tempranillo or rose with a paella that contained sausage meat such as chorizo. Some further research did recommend white wines such as Albarino or Rioja Blanco and I eventually decided to go with a Spanish white to match all of the three dishes in the meal, rather than having to pair a new wine per dish (I’m not made of money you know!).

 So, off to Sainsburys I trotted (sorry if purchasing wine from a supermarket offends anybody). After trawling the wine aisle, spotting bottle after bottle of French wine, California wine, Italian wine (everything but Spanish!), I eventually managed to locate an Albarino. Since this is a wine variety I have not tried before I thought I’d give it a go. I also could not resist, on offer at just £5 a bottle, one of my favourite wines to drink while I’m in Spain; Vina Sol. 


 Anyway, back to the Albarino…according to the bottle, this particular grape is grown in the Rias Baixes (rias, I’m formed, are water inlets), part of the Galicia region of North- western Spain. The mild, wet weather conditions in this region apparently produce a grape with a thick skin which results in wines with an intense, sometimes bitter flavour.

 A bit of research (trusty Google!) suggested that it can be difficult to find a reasonably priced Albarino in supermarkets (although a trip to Majestic or Oddbins might prove to be more successful), but I managed to find, at well under a tenner (£7.49) a Sainsburys Taste the Difference one.

 On first taste, I was struck by the pleasant peachy notes of this wine present both in the scent and taste, but I was taken aback by the acidic bite it left on my tongue. In fairness, this wine did match the goats’ cheese and red pepper salad perfectly, given that the acidity of the wine did not overpower the sweet tang of the balsamic dressing. When sipped alongside the paella though, both Luke and I felt that the match was completely wrong- the full flavours of the saffron and chorizo completely overpowered the wine and after a few more sips it became far too acidic. With a seafood paella this might have gone much better, but I can safely say, after banishing the Albarino to the back of the fridge until dessert time and opening a delicious bottle of Tempranillo, I am now a paella and red wine convert!

 The poor match in this case has somewhat skewed my opinion of what is a very nice wine. I can imagine drinking it in the garden on a hot summer’s day with a nice fresh chicken salad. I’ll let you know how that goes comes summer time!


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