Get out your forks and knives. The new year is about to bring new foods. These foods may look and taste a little different than they did last year. Or actually, a lot different. In 2022, we took a nod from the Spanish pantry to highlight the hot food trends internationally – tinned fish, olives, and potato chips – and the wines that went with them. Those wines – Spain’s Ribera del Duero Tempranillo and Rueda Verdejo – paired perfectly with those foods and of course, still do. This year, the emerging food trends are coming from Africa and Asia among other places, and once again the wines from Ribera del Duero and Rueda are perfectly positioned to match the new flavors.
These new flavors include foods and spices from Nigeria and in Asia, Laos, Korea, the Philippines, and Thailand. Not only are we enthusiastically embracing flavors from these countries, but it also turns out Rueda Verdejo loves them just as much. So too the Peruvian Japanese cuisine called Nikkei that has now made its way onto American tables. Verdejo finds its own way with the tart citrus flavors and fatty fish that are integral components of the Nikkei flavor profile.
Filipino restaurants are also enjoying the spotlight like never before as is the sweet, nutty tuber from the Philippines called ube, prized as much for its deep purple hue as it is for its load of antioxidants. Oaxacan cuisine with its signature molés is hot in more ways than one. And let’s not forget mushrooms. Were they ever not on our tables? No, but now we’re getting into varieties, and this moment belongs to the meaty maitake.
Luckily, that very mushroom begs for a Ribera del Duero Tempranillo alongside. The Filipino dish called Lechon – roast suckling pig – wouldn’t mind that Tempranillo either.
Familiar flavors, new ways
So what are the new flavors anyway? Individually, not so different from many of the ones we know – spices like cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, and curry powder, star anise, herbs like lemongrass, cilantro, and mint, roots like ginger and garlic, and fruit like tamarind. It’s how they’re being put together and the places that inform those combinations that differ. Nigerian pop-ups are, well, popping up all over, but it’s not a cuisine most of us grew up with and certainly never together with wine. But dishes like Suya, so popular there, are being sought after here too. And why wouldn’t a spicy meat kebab find a home here, particularly when a juicy Crianza is right alongside?
Also on the spice trail, za’atar – both a Middle Eastern herb plant as well as a spice blend – is finding its way into previously unexplored dishes not just for flavor but also for its purported health benefits. The blend of dried oregano, thyme, and/or marjoram with sumac and toasted sesame seeds is used on everything from flatbreads to eggs, chicken, salads, vegetable dishes and more. Bring on the flavor and antioxidants, all in one bite. And while you’re at it, bring on the Verdejo too. It loves the earthiness of the spice blend, but so too does Tempranillo when that spice blend finds its way onto grilled lamb among other meats.
Ribera y Rueda and the new table
Following is a brief primer to help bridge the new flavors with these Spanish wines. Last year, we listed the many herbs and spices, both savory and sweet, that we loved with Tempranillo and Verdejo. We’ve updated the lists here to include the new flavors. These are bolded.
Ribera del Duero Tempranillo
Tempranillo is made and aged in several ways. The youngest versions are light and fruity while the longest-aged Tempranillos are the most complex and are best with hearty meats and rich spices. No matter which style you open, though, it’s sure to go with the exciting flavors of the now.
Spices like Anise seed, annatto, alligator pepper, black pepper, Cajun spice, cayenne, Chinese five-spice powder, cumin, curry powder, garlic, garlic powder, ginger, harissa paste, Calabash nutmeg (African, Jamaican; also known as Ehuru), onion powder, Hungarian sweet or spicy paprika, pimentón, Thai red curry (medium heat) red pepper flakes, star anise, dried suya powder (a blend of dried, powdered peanuts, smoked paprika and other spices), yaji (northern Nigerian spice blend containing garlic powder, ginger, and chili powder among other spices)Baking spices: Allspice, cinnamon, clove, nutmegThe herbs: Bay laurel, caraway, chilies, both mild and hot, curry leaves, lavender, marjoram, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and za’atarCondiments like banana ketchup, Lao Jeow Het (mushroom and chili-based Laotian dipping sauce), Thai red curry paste (medium heat), harissa, gochujang,
All together: Think assertive, medium to hot, sweet-savory, and multicultural. Bring herbaceous, earthy, menthol, aromatic, and peppery and you should be good.
A few Tempranillo-friendly dishes:
Nigerian Jollof – rice, tomato, and pepper often with onions, carrots, and prawnsSuya – Northern Nigerian spicy kebabsRed Thai curry with beefFilipino pork adoboFilipino lechon – whole suckling pig roasted over fireFilipino kare-kare – oxtail stew with toasted rice and peanut sauceSlow-roasted lamb with za’atarKorean Bulgogi – marinated grilled beef, onions, green peppers, and garlic
Rueda Verdejo can be made, bottled, and sold just a few months after harvest, or the winemaker might hold the wine back to let it rest on its lees and perhaps age it for a bit in oak. This means the flavor and texture of Verdejo ranges from light and citrusy to broad on the palate and complex. All styles find harmony with the spices and dishes that are now defining the way we eat.
The herbs: basil, cilantro, dill, fenugreek, lemongrass, mint, mustard, oregano, pandan, parsley, tarragon, Thai basil, thyme.
The spices: salt, lemon pepper, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, cardamom, curry, garlic powder, ginger, Calabash nutmeg (African, Jamaican; also known as Ehuru), sweet and spicy pimentón, red pepper flakes, tamarind, Thai bird chiles, turmeric
The condiments: Achara (Filipino; fermented sauerkraut similar to kimchi), fish sauce, mustard, white and rice vinegars, olive oil, hot sauce (mild to medium heat), green Thai curry paste, harissa paste or sauce, jeow mak keua (Laotian eggplant-based sauce or dip), kimchi, soy sauce, fermented soybean paste
A few Verdejo-friendly dishes
Danmuji – Korean pickled radishLaab ped – Thai minced duck saladEgusi – Nigerian soup made with melon seedsLumpia – Filipino spring rollVegetable pancit – Filipino noodles with vegetables or chickenFilipino chicken adoboFilipino arroz caldo – chicken and rice soup with ginger, fish sauce, and tart citrus called calamansiPeruvian tiradito – sashimi-style raw fish with a spicy citrus drizzleFish with molé verde (green molé)Southeast Asian laksa
Specialty Retail Perspective
While we’re on the subject of trends, our specialty food partners had a little input of their own. They agreed that flavors from Asia and Africa are on the move and that more bold spices like chiles, pepper, and yes – za ‘atar are going out the door at a much faster clip than before. They also see a trend toward fermentation and pickles made from almost everything. High quality meats are being sought out more than before, and perhaps unsurprisingly, pastas remain a big deal. What may be different in the grain category is that tried-and-true products like English muffins and French toast are being made anew as are Old World staples like Sardinian flatbread and focaccia. “Shareable” is another concept we heard.
Our way of entertaining has changed, and many of us want to keep our gatherings small yet convivial. Unsurprisingly, these retailers tell us to keep an eye out for wines from Ribera del Duero and Rueda. They too are trending.
Small is big
Looking beyond the world of retail, some interesting restaurant trends are emerging. For one, small is big. “36” seems to be the sweet spot for restaurant size, which is not only more manageable for the chefs and restaurateurs, but also for wine service. Not sure which wine to order? A small-scale restaurant is far more likely to have the bandwidth to guide you toward a wine that will suit both your palate and your plate. This, of course, is good news for Ribera del Duero and Rueda. As more restaurants join the conversation, the winemakers in these regions will look to sommeliers and barkeeps to direct the pairing of these great wines with the new and exciting flavors.
Ice is nice
We’ve long touted chilling certain Ribera del Duero Tempranillos. What we didn’t know is that we were ahead of the curve when we suggested that. Bring on the red wine and bring on the chill. They’re made for each other.
In the white wine world, don’t forget that a properly chilled ‘young’ Rueda Verdejo makes all the difference. So too does a properly tempered one, which we often over-chill. Counterintuitive as it sounds, a Verdejo with lees-resting and age influence can sit out on the table to come to room temperature. This helps release the nuances, richness, and depth of the wine.
We’re all giving more thought to the resources we use, and it’s no different in the wine business. Wine bottle recycling companies are now working with wineries and restaurants to collect and reuse the bottles. Wineries themselves are getting in on the act. Some are working only with restaurants that pledge to collect and return used wine bottles to the winery. No doubt, this is far more than a trend. Instead, it is the beginning of a movement, one termed “reginivore,” a word the New York Times proclaims as “the” word of 2023.
The big wrap
No matter where you look, the predicted 2023 trends are already on the move. Take note of the snack of the year. Chicken skin is in. But that doesn’t mean previous trends are out. Many moons ago, we told you that easy-to-make shareable tapas were in. Well, we’re here to tell you they still are – stronger than ever (we’re talking to you, barkeeps!). If you don’t want to take our word for it, then take a look at some of our industry friends’ predictions – friends like AF&Co and Carbonate whose job is to collaborate and figure these things out for the rest of us. Just given their predictions as well as our friends at Tasting Table and Yelp, I’d say we’ve got some exciting bites ahead. The sips to go with them? Well, as you’ve probably figured out, you need look no further than Ribera del Duero Tempranillo and Rueda Verdejo. These two regions have it all, and because of that, so do we.
Enter to win a trip for two to Ribera y Rueda, Spain’s most prestigious wine regions in 2024! Here’s your chance to experience the best bodegas (wineries), tour with winemakers and taste amazing wines while taking in historical sites. Stay in luxurious accommodations, partake in late lunches and tapas crawls.