Rioja for your Thanksgiving feast? I know, it’s not a wine and food pairing that I wouldn’t have considered either, but after attending an event for Vibrant Rioja put on by Padilla/CRT last month, I wonder why I’d never thought of it before. Usually, the wines that we choose in our family for holiday meals come down to a. whatever is around b. whatever we can buy at the grocery store (being in Virginia you can do that, unlike in New York) or c. whatever I might have brought with me on my visit down South. Food magazines offer suggestions for American Pinot Noirs or Zinfandels or some other vintage that happens to be the popular one of the season. It all gets a bit confusing, not least because of the pressure to make a decision with the whole family relying upon my tastes, to the point where grabbing a beer from my dad’s stash just seems like the easiest route to go.
Riojas tend to be low-acidity, food friendly wines, which was demonstrated to us that evening in the best way possible – by pairing different vintages with a variety of dishes. The Marqués de Cáceres 2012 was the perfect way to get into the festive mood. It’s bright pink color, berry notes and clean finish made this the perfect wine to enjoy while nibbling on sliced meats and Spanish tortilla while talking to the other attendees about what they do in the food business.
My favorite pairing of the evening is one that would have pleased one of my wine instructors. She taught us to pair smoky flavors with oaky wines. Well, the Chorizo Corn Bread Stuffing, maybe something I can introduce to my family’s holiday table, worked beautifully with the round, ripe, deep, red fruit flavors of the Castillo Labastida Crianza 2010 which had been aged in American oak, picking up those notes. It was a match that made me want to go back for seconds and thirds of the stuffing the balance between the wine and food were just so wonderful to enjoy together.
A wine that seemed to pair well with just about everything that we were served was the Conde de Valdemar Reserva 2006. This wine was aged in American and French oak, combining the best characteristics of both while also letting the fruit flavors shine through on the palate. We enjoyed it with the Duck in a Sherry-Citrus Sauce, the stuffing, the Carrots and Cauliflower in Romesco, and the Green Beans in Cream Sauce. The diversity of tastes that this wine paired with would make it a great holiday meal partner.
For dessert, we had a wine that seemed to me to have a more sophisticated personality as well as a beautiful nose. The Dinastia Vivanco Reserva 2005 was served alongside a platter of Churros and Spicy Chocolate Sauce. The crisp, fried dough dusted with sugar dipped in rich, creamy chocolate with a kick of heat was a great balance with the wine, bringing out some of its spice notes.
This year, I think I might try introducing Rioja to our holiday dinner table. It might take some convincing, I know, given the entrenched tastes of my family members, but I’m game to try it. I just really enjoyed how much these wines seemed to go so well with all the foods that we tried. No matter what you serve for this holiday season, I hope that you are surrounded by family and friends and fellow wine-lovers.