Wine Pairings for Paella
The Italians have risotto. But in Spain, it's all about paella. The dish originated in the region of Valenica, where it was once the purview of farmers who made it as a one-pot meal over a fire for lunch; it was essentially made with rice and whatever the farmers had on hand.
Today though there is, in general, five kinds of paella, and it's a national dish of sorts, since it's a staple throughout the country. Valencian paella traditionally is made with rice, beans, green vegetables, meat, land snails, and seasoning.
Seafood paella is also popular, as is a mixed paella -- or mixta -- which combines seafood and meat with vegetables, and of course, rice. Less popular but still delicious are vegetarian paellas, as well as paella negra, which is made with seafood and squid ink, which turns the rice black. (Get five tips on how to make paella, from Maki of our Cooking Andalusian Olive Country cooking vacation).
Even with the wide range of flavors, and ingredients, in paella, it's quite easy to pair paella with wine. One great general rule of thumb is this: what grows together, goes together. In other words, Spanish wines, largely, go well with traditional Spanish paella.
Want more guidance? Wines from the region of Rioja, in general, make a popular wine pairing. These food-friendly wines -- which include rosés, reds, and whites -- work so well because most go with everything from meats to vegetables, making them a perfect accompaniment to paella. For example, rioja reds, many made with Tempranillo grapes, pair well with seafood paellas. Valencia or mixed paellas, on the other hand, work particularly well with dry rosés and red Grenaches. As long as the wine isn't too fruity or contain a lot of tannins, chances are it'll work well your paella dish.
Of course, you can venture outside of Spanish wines, and if you do, stick to rosés and lighter reds, such as those from France's Languedoc region.
Now that you know what to pair with paella, need a paella recipe? Here's one from Chef Sergio of our Secrets of the Mediterranean cooking vacation. He also leads one-day classes in Andalusia.
- 1 onion
- 4 ripe tomatoes
- 1 red pepper
- 1 green pepper
- 1 squid
- 500 g (1 lb 1 oz) mussels
- 500 g (1 lb 1 oz) baby clams
- 300 g (10 1/2 oz) medium-sized prawns
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) chicken
- 100 g (3 1/2 oz) pork ribs
- 500 g (1 lb 1 oz) Spanish rice or equivalent (not risotto or sushi rice)
- 1.5 l (1 3/4 pints) Fish stock
- 1 glass of dry white wine
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced into strips
- Finely chopped parsley
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1. Place the paella pan (or frying pan) on mid heat, and cover the base in olive oil. When hot, slowly add the diced meat into the pan. Lightly fry the meat until its slightly golden on all sides, then add all the chopped vegetables and squid (sliced into rings) into the pan.
2. Keep the pan on a high heat stirring occasionally while it simmers for 5-7 minutes.
3. While stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon, pour the rice into the mix. The rice will start to absorb the juices and flavors of the other ingredients.
4. When the rice starts to turn from white to a opaque transparent color, add the white wine and stir for 1 minute until the alcohol evaporates.
5. Now add the fish stock uniformly in the pan but leave some in the jug, in case you need it later in the preparation.
6. Turn the heat to low, and add the mix of saffron, turmeric, and garlic.
7. When the stock starts to boil add the mussels, clams, and prawns in a symmetrical circular fashion. From this moment on, you must move the pan every 1 or 2 minutes in a circular motion using the two handles, so you don't disturb the seafood ingredients and so the rice doesn't stick to the base of the pan.
8. Every so often try a piece of rice until the center of the grain ceases to have a chalky taste. When the rice reaches this point, turn off the heat and cover the pan with a cloth. Leave it like this for 5 minutes before serving.
Want to learn more about paella and other traditional dishes of Spain? Take a cooking vacation to this sun-drenched, beautiful country.
By Liz Hall