A succulent Spanish tradition: Tapas and Wine

For those of you that do not know , a tapa, the miniature cuisine from Spain, is a finger food eaten between the meals. In Spanish culture, tapa means “cover or appetizer”. The Real Academia Española de la Lengua defines a tapa as “any portion of solid food able to accompany a drink”.  In Spain, you can choose from four types of tapas: cold, fried, sauce based and warm. The fried tapas available in Madrid, like boquerones, calamares, croquets, fritters and sausages, are the most popular. The tapas served with salads can even replace a complete lunch. Tapas are made from both animal-based and agricultural products: anchovies, beef, cheeses, cocktail onions, dry nuts, meat, mackerel, sardines, squid, tuna, and vegetables. However, no tapa will be complete without olives.

In ancient times, many taverns covered sherry glasses with bread or meat slices to prevent dust particles and flies from falling in the drink. In fact, salty chorizo or ham pieces stimulated thirst, increasing alcohol consumption. Taverns, as a consequence, recorded an increase in sales of alcohol, the slices and other related snacks, which were known as tapas. And tavern owners became more creative in offering snacks to accompany the drinks. This tradition of special snacks continues, but in a different form. The main purpose of contemporary “tapeo”, the art of eating tapas, is bringing people together for a conversation instead of focusing on meals.  In Spain tapas are generally eaten standing and in small quantities like birds. Another reason to nibble tapas between meals is the Spanish custom to have dinner very late (9-11 p.m.). Tapas are also a good choice for afternoon socializing on weekends.

If you want to learn to make tapas, there are a few places in Montreal and its surroundings offering courses on Spanish cuisine. These are: La Guilde Culinaire and La Academie Culinaire. La Guilde Culinaire offers a 3h 30 min course for a cool $129. You get 2 glasses of wine.  On the other hand, La Academie offers you a 3 h course for a $109. There is also in Montreal south shore, Atelier Culinaire, offering a 3 hour block of tapas and Spanish cuisine for $104. But if I were you, I will keep my 100 bucks or so and get the recipes from the internet. There are many  terrific sites such as Foods and Wines from Spain  with authentic recipes. Keep your money to buy the food and the wine.

5 All time favorite Spanish wines to accompany home-made tapas that wont break your bank account:

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Parès Baltà Calcari Xarel-Lo 2013. SAQ Code: 11377225. $19.25. D.O Penedes.

The roots of Parés Baltà goes all the way back to the 18th century. Parés Baltà produces a wide range of high quality wines and cavas that has been both nationally and internationally acclaimed. In addition, their vineyards are biological.  Pale yellow color with green nuances. Clear and transparent with medium intensity on the nose that brings  to  mind pear and banana. In the mouth it is fresh with a good acidity and balance.  90\100.

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Ijalba Maturana Blanca 2013. SAQ Code: 11383596. $23.35. D.O Rioja.

This is, in case you were wondering, the only Maturana Blanca in the world. Ijalba has taken upon themselves a mission to resurrect this almost extinct variety, fostering the world’s only known vineyard of it – just a bit over two hectares, which is almost peanuts. And yet, it is the grape variety with the oldest known citation in all of Rioja – a written reference dating back to 1622. On the nose, the wine display beautiful citrus and peachy notes. On the mouth, it is round and velvety with a zippy acidity. Beautiful balance displaying tropical fruit notes. 91\100.

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Bo Bobal Unico. $16.75. SAQ Code:  11676680Utiel-Requena

Bobal  is the second most widely planted vine in Spain, after Tempranillo, and it gives its best expression in the D.O. Utiel-Requena (high elevation, short and dry summers). Actually, the variety is native to Utiel-Requena region. On the nose, this wine presents intense aromas of dark cherry with notes of toasty oak and licorice. In the mouth, full body with a medium to high acidity and fleshy tannins. Smooth with a balanced with a flavorful finish. 92\100.

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Marques De Grinon Caliza Syrah / Petit Verdot 2011. SAQ Code: 11194980. $21.45 Pago Dominio de Valdepusa.

Dominio de Valdepusa is a Denominación de Origen (DO) de Pago in the comunity of Castilla-La Mancha. Dominio de Valdepusa has been in the family of the Marqués de Griñón Carlos Falcó since 1292. The family has played an integral part in Spanish wine culture for centuries. Dominio de Valdepusa produces red wines only, whose primary grape varieties are Syrah, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Graciano, and Merlot.

On the nose, this wine shows intense and complex fruit aromas that bring to mind fieldberries and ripe black cherry. In addition, subtle notes of minerality and spearmint.  On the mouth, this is an ample wine with silky tannins and great structure. Fleshy and balanced with a persistent aftertaste. 92\100

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Alejandro Fernàndez El Vinculo Crianza 2009. SAQ Code: 11896691. $26.30. D.O La Mancha.

Like all proyects that Alejandro Fernández embarkes on, his enthusiasm  elevated this Tempranillo from the hot plains of central Spain into a classy wine that goes byeond its rustic origins. In 1999 the discovery in La Mancha of oldTempranillo vineyards convinced Fernández, of t Tinto Pesquera and Condado de Haza in Ribera del Duero, to undertake one last wine proyect. A deep  black cherry color in the glass, El Vínculo Crianza explodes with deep, brooding aromas of plums, cherries, blood oranges, vanilla and tobacco. Velvety and supple on the palate, the wine adds layers of blackberries, dried herbs, dusty soil and dark leather. Fine, silky tannins emerge on the back-palate that leads i to a long, powerful finish and a long aftertaste of vanilla, tobacco and tar. 94\100

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