Spanish Tempranillo ,labeled as from the Rioja, is produced to be approachable at an early age or produced as a Crianza with a year in oak and few months in the bottle before release. The soft, herbal tannin serves to balance the grapes fruit character and acidity. The majority of Tempranillo production ages in used oak which allows fruit, tannin, and acidity to shine through. This sense of balance allows the wine to pair seamlessly with food.
Wines of Rioja possess a youthful balance, which makes them a joy to pair with various types of proteins. Lamb dishes with rich sauces are broken down and highlighted by Tempranillo’s acidity and in turn, the dark fruit character of the grape emerges from its pairing with the chosen dish. Chicken is another protein that is well suited for paring with Tempranillo, as well as pork. These are proteins that are not as rugged as beef, which is better served with a structured Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc.
Spanish wines designated as Crianza are more robust and dark in their character. Tannin has broken down and with small influence of oak, the wine becomes full and complex. These are wines that works well with meat such as wild boar or quail. The earthiness and richness of a Crianza brings a rustic feel to any food pairing. When deciding to barbecue, a Crianza is an excellent choice to build complexity. Due to the fact that Crianza wines age for a short period of time in used oak, their price can start from $15.
It is most important to remember that in order to experience the beauty of the food pairing, equal amounts of both food and wine should be brought together onto your palate. A well decanted wine will also add to the quality of the pairing. The reaction of wine and food coming together will bring a smile to your face and a sense of pleasure. It is the purpose of both food and wine. It is all meant to be shared and enjoyed!