Spain's most prestigious regionS for red and white wine

Close this search box.

Simple Bites, Simple Pairs

Food & Wine Issue: Tapas

White-Hot Wine Regions & Haute Bites


It’s nearly impossible to beat the experience of a spot-on food and wine pairing.

Laura Werlin

Simple Bites, Simple Pairs

Article by James Beard Award-winning author Laura Werlin @cheezelady

It’s nearly impossible to beat the experience of a spot-on food and wine pairing. A sip, a bite, a sip, and with each, sheer bliss. Some pairings are like that – just magical. The key to the perfect match is obvious: it’s about what you open and what you serve. It’s also about ease. That’s why whether you’re in a bar, restaurant, or are a home cook, what follows is for you – recipes for easy-to- make shareable tapas and small bites with the outstanding wines from Spain’s Castilla y León. 

For those wines, look no further than Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero and Verdejo from Rueda, Spain’s two most prestigious wine regions. Each region produces a range of wines in food-friendly styles, wines that go especially well with the delicious recipes designed for professionals and home cooks alike that we’ve included here. One bite of any of these, and they will instantly make it into your entertaining regimen, whether you’re a chef or a party-giver at home – or both!

Salt, fat, acid, and Verdejo

A few fast facts about Rueda Verdejo: 

  • Verdejo’s aroma and flavor characteristics are primarily citrus, melon, apple, fennel, and sometimes toasted almonds.
  • Rueda is in Spain’s Castilla y León region northwest of Madrid.
  • Rueda Verdejo is Spain’s number-one selling white wine inside Spain as well as other countries in Western Europe.
  • Rueda Verdejo’s three styles are joven, lees-aged, and oak-aged. The latter two are sometimes combined to create more complex, age-worthy wines.
  • An official Rueda DO back label ensures quality in the bottle.

Verdejo looks for simple yet distinctive flavors and textures to match with it: fresh, herbaceous, salty, spicy, rich, tart, and crunchy. In the culinary department, This broad compatibility makes the varietal the ideal food pairing friend.

Take, for example, this exceptionally easy recipe/no recipe for
boquerones with potato chips. (recipe here). All it takes is a bowl of any of the new and utterly delicious potato chips on gourmet market shelves, a plate of marinated white anchovies – boquerones in Spanish – a bundle of toothpicks for spearing the fish, and voilà – your own version of fish and chips. It hits pretty much all the wine pairing notes, costs mere cents to make, and elicits a huge return on the satisfaction index. Simply put, everyone will love it.

Get a two-fer with those boquerones by riffing on the traditional gilda (Check out History of Tapas article here). Stack one on a toothpick along with a Guindilla pepper and Gordal olive for slatey and spicy flavors, and if you’re feeling a tad cheeky, then add a chunk of Manchego cheese (recipe here). Bathe the whole thing briefly in olive oil, and you’re good to go.

Also for fish lovers, look no further than the can. Tinned fish is “in” for a reason – it’s crazy good. Locate some ripe tomatoes, white onion and open a can or jar of tuna conserva and build the best Spanish tomato salad you’ll ever have. Grab a piece of bread to soak up all the juices while sipping on a crisp Verdejo. Find the simple recipe here.

 If you’d rather stay on land, then you can’t do better than this recipe for olives zhughed up with grapefruit, lemon, cilantro, garlic, and olive oil. Or this recipe for spiced cashews with lime and cayenne. Both work great with Verdejo, are easy to prepare, last for days in the fridge, and are welcome at any gathering. 

All these recipes have one thing in common: Rueda Verdejo. They love it. The various styles of Verdejo pretty much ensure good matches across the board – salty loves joven, rich oily ingredients love lees-aged (that texture!), and the layered, heartier one-biters hold their own with the more complex oak-aged Verdejos.

These recipes also share simplicity. Just stock your pantry with easy-to-pair ingredients, and you’ll have your perfect Verdejo pairings in just minutes.

Bonus tip to bartenders: all these dishes live happily on the back bar, some at room temperature and some in the fridge. Home entertainers, same-same. Put these together before a gathering, and hosting will be a breeze. No matter who’s serving, this kind of food and wine pairing is budget-friendly and totally satisfying. It represents the best of hospitality – behind-the-scenes ease and a big bang for the buck. The bonus is that the recipes are easy to make again and again.

Haute snacks and Tempranillo

Rueda Verdejo isn’t the only wine to consider when it comes to simple bites and wine pairing. Also in Castilla y León is the prestigious red wine growing region of Ribera del Duero. Tempranillo is the star of the area and like its white wine counterpart, meets the moment when simple bites are on the menu. 

Ribera del Duero Tempranillo basics:

  • Ribera del Duero Tempranillo’s primary aromas and flavors include black cherry, dark, brambly fruits, licorice, forest floor, and vanilla.
  • An official Ribera del Duero DO back label ensures quality in the bottle.
  • Ribera del Duero Tempranillo falls into one of four official classifications, three of which correspond with age.
    • Crianza – at least one year in barrel
    • Reserva – at least two years in bottle, and one year in barrel
    • Gran Reserva – at least three years in bottle and two years in barrel
    • Cosecha – wines that don’t fall neatly into any of the other categories but often exceed classification.
  • Ribera del Duero Tempranillo, also called Tinto Fino and Tinta del Pais in this region, is often referred to as the King of Grapes in Spain. 

The complexity of many Tempranillos doesn’t mean that its food pairing pals can’t be simple. Opposites attract, after all. That’s why a bowl of these
easy-to-make marinated Cornicabra olives recipe – also called red olives – marinated with dried figs, cinnamon, cloves, dill, and olive oil served with a berry-forward Crianza is a sure bet. 

Sticking with the “marinated” theme, Manchego bathed in olive oil spiced with chile de arbol, black peppercorns, rosemary, and lemon is an incredible snack all on its own. Match it with Tempranillo, and together, you’ve expanded the dimensions of both the bite and the wine. Get the recipe here.

Other simple snackables friendly to Tempranillo include roasted chickpeas with Moorish spices (recipe here), popcorn dusted with the same spices, and an easy, make-your-own pintxo party (recipe here). You can just take a slice of chorizo, a piquillo pepper, a dried date slice, and a chunk of Zamorano cheese (or Manchego) and stack it on a longer-style toothpick. Pinchar means “to poke” in Spanish, and this wood-speared bite answers the call for spicy, sweet, and rich. It naturally begs for a Tempranillo alongside.

Or for a real show-stopper, try these Bacon-Wrapped Dates (recipe here) Like the other bites, these fall under the “easy” category. Plus, they’re a perfect match with a Crianza or other lighter style Ribera del Duero Tempranillo. The wine loves the sweet-smoky flavors as well as the textures, which are both chewy and crunchy. To really kick this simple one-bite wonder up a notch, add a bit of decadent blue cheese to the dates (may we suggest Rogue Creamery’s award-winning Rogue River Blue?) for a truly out-of-body moment. 

The common link in all these recipes? Their incredible compatibility with the age range and flavor profiles that Ribera del Duero Tempranillo brings to the table. Dark fruit and brambly flavors love sweet and spice, the wine’s velvety texture loves crunch, and the Tempranillos from here, no matter their age, love all kinds of cheeses. That pretty much seals the deal. 

When it comes to making simple bites and putting them together with Ribera del Duero Tempranillo and Rueda Verdejo, it’s like the ultimate luxe buffet. All the elements are there. All you have to do is put them together. Experimentation along the way is welcome. Discoveries await!