Tapas and New Wave Spanish Wine
Most of us that are interested in good food and wine will have heard the word tapas. But do you know what it means and where it came from? We asked Plymouth restaurateur Stephen Barrett to tell us.
For the answers, we have to go back a very long time probably to Andalusia in southern Spain. This is an extremely hot corner of Spain’s Mediterranean coast and home to one of the world s most famous drinks, Sherry.
Sherry is a lightly fortified wine of some substance currently enjoying a renaissance in bars and restaurants. History tells us that the innkeepers of Andalusia used to place a simple piece of bread on top of a glass of sherry or wine to keep the dust and fruit flies out. This was much appreciated by visiting horsemen who no doubt stopped for ‘refreshment’ on their journey. The Spanish rarely drink without eating some food so I guess it was inevitable that enterprising innkeepers started to place on the bread small morsels of simple cuisine such as local ham, simple slices of cheese, slivers of fish or perhaps marinated vegetables. These became known as Tapas or lid and a culinary gift to the world was born.
Fast forward to the 21st century we now find Tapas bars all over Spain mainly the simple local bar that is utterly uncomplicated serving an array of colourful dishes to accompany the chosen beverage. When I take Wine Tourists to Rioja on a WineHoliday (go to www.wineholidays.net for itinerary) we stay in the lovely city of Logrono where we visit the incredible Calle Laurel, a honeycomb of approximately 200 tapas bars and restaurants all brilliantly individual, serving the throngs of locals and visitors until early in the morning.
Sherry has been replaced with Tinto (red) and Blanco (white) wines usually offered very young, often chilled and very moreish. The Tintos are made from the grapes Tempranillo and Garnacha and have probably seen little of no oak. These are the juicy wines that chill well and match a plethora of foods ranging from Spicy Seafood to Garlic laced Mushrooms.
Spanish whites have come a long way since the (very expensive) oak-aged Blancos or dull inconsistent younger versions, often of no particular breeding. They have all but been replaced with exciting wines from Galicia, Rueda, Rioja and Penedes. Made with the grapes, Viura, Verdejo, Alborinio and Godello these fascinating indigenous wines are now very fresh and carefully made and should be considered as an excellent alternative to your current favourite white wine.
Try Campo Viejo Viura 2007, around £5.99 Sainsburys or Thresher, showing green apple fruit and lemon scent with a bone-dry finish. Clean and fruity to the last drop.
Cava is also an inexpensive alternative to Champagne as a casual sparkler that certainly lifts the spirits and is also a terrific match for seafood and vegetarian-orientated Tapas. Whatever occasion, Cava will fit the bill, whether own-label style or big brand up-market styles that are all over the supermarkets and often on offer! Again Campo Viejo has come up trumps with a White and Rose Cava both top-notch with brilliant fruit persistence and aroma, Tesco stocks both around £6.99 before discount.
Tapas have certainly arrived in the UK with restaurants and bars offering a stream of different styles and flavours. They are pretty easy to invent and beat the ubiquitous canape and ‘yesterday’s vol au vents’ hands down.
Here is a Tapas suggestion that will brighten up a supper party or for simply sharing with a lovely modern Spanish wine whatever your choice might be.
RECIPE: Tapas at Home
Crostinis of Chicken livers with Sherry – for four persons
- 450g Chicken livers, trimmed of any gristle
- 2 finely chopped onions
- Two tablespoons olive oil
- 100ml of dry sherry
- Sea salt and cracked black pepper
- 30g unsalted butter
- 12 Oven baked Crostinis
- Wedges of lemon – optional
Slice a medium size baguette into Crostinis. Drizzle with olive oil and bake on either side for 3 minutes in a hot oven.
In a large hot frying pan, saute the finely chopped onion with one tablespoonful of olive oil until transparent. Dry the Chicken Livers on kitchen paper, season with sea salt and black pepper add to the pan with the other tablespoon of olive oil.
Shake the pan over a high heat for approximately three or four minutes ensuring the livers are starting to brown but still pink in the middle.
Remove to a warm oven whilst adding the sherry to the pan scraping the bottom with a wooden spoon.
Reduce the sherry by half and add 30g of unsalted butter. Add the cooked chicken livers to the pan and saute for one minute.
Assemble the livers on the warm Crostinis securing with a cocktail stick.
Offer lemon wedges
About Stephen Barrett
Stephen Barrett is a Wine and Food Writer broadcaster and Restaurateur working from his restaurant Bistro One in Plymouth’s Ebrington Street.
He also operates www.wineholidays.net specialising in Wine Tours to Rioja, Bordeaux and Burgundy.