By Annelise McAuliffe
During summer, beautiful weather call us out of the winter woodwork and beckon to reconnect with friends over copious amounts of food. Creating a meal or gathering centered around tapas and appetizers creates a fun, casual atmosphere with many delicious cuisines. Good food requires great wine to accompany and we have just the wine region for you. Hailing from North Central Spain, the Rioja region provides quality wine to pair with a variety of foods. One of our favorite parts of the Rioja stamp of approval is that the wine is aged for you. Only after being kept in the winemaker’s cellar for the appropriate amount of time is the bottle then released to the market. So every time you open a Rioja bottle, you can expect a beautiful taste and high quality.
Here are ten of our favorite summer appetizers and tapas with our suggested Rioja pairing. ¡Salud!
1. Danish Blue Cheese Gougéres with Rioja Tinto
A gougére is a small choux pastry, basically a savory cream puff, made here with tangy blue cheese. Pair the cheese puffs with a young red wine. The light, fruitiness makes for a great sipping wine and pairs well with the strong cheese. Get the recipe.
2. Chorizo A La Sidra with Rioja Tinto Reserva
Chorizo a la sidra consists in slices of chorizo stewed in cider for heaven in a tapa. This style of Rioja is barbecues best friend. The spicy chorizo tapa will pair well with the robust chocolatey wines. Get the recipe.
3. Dahi Sev Batata Puri with Rioja Tinto Crianza
This popular Indian snack is a form of chaat that originates in the city of Mumbai. With spiced potatoes and onions served beside chutneys, this appetizer bring flair to your small plates. One of the many skills of Rioja wine is the ability to pair with and cool down spicy foods. Its fruity and fresh flavors will bring balance to the complex appetizer. Get the recipe.
4. Colorful Cantaloupe and Prosciutto Crostini with a Steel Fermented White Rioja
Mix the sweet flavor of cantaloupe with the salt of the melted mozzarella cheese and Prosciutto for these crostinis. To add a touch of tartness drizzle a few drops of your favorite balsamic vinegar. With clean, citrus notes, the wine is able to balance the mild melon and salty dairy and protein. Get the recipe.
5. Finnish Smoked Salmon Potato Tartine with Barrel-Fermented White Rioja
All the flavors in this dish — smokiness of the salmon, saltiness of the capers, tangy goat cheese, creamy hard-boiled egg and sharp red onion — work wonders together. A rich, seductive Rioja white wine that has been aged in a barrel with good acidity will stand up to the salmon and creamy goat cheese and egg. Get the recipe.
6. Beet and Feta Bruschetta with Rioja Rosado Rosé
A perfectly easy appetizer that requires the grill and not much else. Quench your thirst alongside the barbecue with red berry and dry-finishing rosé. Don’t be afraid to add cracked pepper and plenty of garlic to this bite as the Rosado loves to tone things down with its fruity notes. Get the recipe.
7. Mini Vietnamese Pork Buns with Rioja Tinto Reserva
With roast pork, fresh herbs, salad and a hint of chilli, these Mini Vietnamese Pork Buns will be the hit of the party. Pair with the wine that has been aged in an earthy oak barrel for at least a year. The wine and food will meld together and carry throughout a lazy meal. Get the recipe.
8. Tostones with Bean Salsa and Rioja Tinto
Fried, smashed plantains are here and they are so good. Serve with a bean and avocado salsa for a colorful appetizer. Get back to the basics with these quick-dipping tostones and the easy-sipping Rioja Tinto. Get the recipe.
9. Spanish Tortilla with an Oak-Fermented White Rioja
Spanish tortilla is maybe one of the most famous Spanish dishes, an omelette made with potato. While Rioja wines can keep up with a variety of cuisines, be sure to feature the Spanish classic dishes, too. The smooth and rich white wine will complement the rich egg yolks and buttery potatoes. Get the recipe.
10. Berry Chutney, Goat Cheese, and Pecan Puff Appetizers with Rioja Tinto Gran Reserva
For a dessert bite, cap off the evening with these simple puff and a remarkable wine. These fun puff pastry appetizers turn a berry jam or chutney into a hand-help dessert. Pair the rich, red fruit jam with a complex, oak-aged wine. Matching the deep, caramelized flavors of the pastry, the Rioja wine will also add notes of cinnamon and smoke. Get the recipe here and be sure to linger on this wine.
Mandatory family outings to the Detroit farmers' market and nightly home-cooked meals cultivated Annelise's respect and curiosity for food. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, she spends her free time in New York City recipe testing, eating breakfast all day, and dreaming up international culinary adventures.