Cheeseburger

Cheeseburgers are probably the first things that come to my mind when I think about American food. They are not my favourite, but I must confess I’ve succumbed to temptation on more than one occasion. It’s that perfect blend of meat and cheese that makes them irresistible. As much as people now want to complicate them, their preparation is very simple. It is a classic that can not be missed at any summer barbecue. In fact the numbers speak for themselves: 13 billion units were served in 2009 in the United States. Moreover, it is only the first step towards a world of infinite combinations with tomato, bacon, onion, pickles, lettuce, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard… And so, to infinity and beyond.

My proposal is to combine this king of the kitchen with the king of wines in Spain. I would go with a red Rioja. Besides being an easy wine to find, I think the classiness of the wine contrasts with the irreverence of the cheeseburger.

Mac and Cheese

If you want to see an Italian writhe and squirm like a slug on a handful of salt just give him this recipe. It is a recipe that could not be further away from conservatism of the famous and sacred Italian pasta. But between you and me, who can resist the delicious combination of pasta and cheesy cream?

And what better to combine with the sweet flavour of this dish than a dry wine like Manzanilla. It’s one of those combinations that is, by its contrasts, really interesting, but tends to balance out both flavours. Sherry wines are recommended for combining with rice, seafood, white fish, soft cheeses and even ham, and now, why not, Mac and cheese.

Chicken casserole

This is probably one of my favorite dishes in American cuisine. I discovered it whilst diving mouth first into the world of Amish food. A lot of their recipes are based on these casseroles, all of them delicious, but especially this one with chicken. I’ve seen several variations on it that include peas, carrots and even corn. One of my dreams is to one day open a restaurant in Madrid where only Amish food is served.

In either case, my proposal is to pair this dish with an elegant wine from Rías Baixas; it would be the perfect companion. These wines are very versatile, they have a very balanced acidity and allow you to combine them with multiple dishes. The fruity hints of the wine will blend perfectly with the delicate flavours of the chicken casserole.

Hot dogs

Along with the burger, hot dogs are, by popular acclamation, one of the greatest dishes of American gastronomy. Popular all over the world, it is a very easy meal to eat while walking down the street, which explains why one of its most popular points of sale are those street kiosks. But let us bring the hot dog to a higher context, imagine that we are at home enjoying a movie or an interesting football game: it’s time to have a delicious hot dog.

Besides bread and sausage, the variety of seasonings and toppings that can be added is vast: ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, fried onions, cheese… Everything seems to work well with that simple recipe of bread and sausage.

And if hot dogs are another star of American cuisine, I will propose to match them with one of the other kings of Spanish wines that I think works perfectly: Ribera del Duero. Two strong and different personalities that work perfectly together in your mouth.

Fried chicken

One of the most interesting contrasts that can be sampled in the world of Spanish wines is the one between bubbling cavas and especially greasy meals. It’s not surprising that one of the foods that better combines with this sparkling drink is the Iberian (Ibérico) ham. This is the reason why I have dared to pair fried chicken with this bubbly wine. Bring a bottle of Cava with you to your next picnic. The harmony is perfect between the fat-fried white meat of chicken and the acidity of the Cava. It does nothing but extol its flavours in perfect harmony.

Ribs

It’s time to get your hands dirty. And there is no better way than to eat delicious ribs painted with that sticky and scrumptious barbecue sauce, cooked as slowly as possible. In contrast with the rushed and fast-food image of burgers and hot dogs, it’s not easy to find an American recipe that requires so much time and pampering as the famous pork ribs.

The combination of seasoning and mustard and barbecue sauce requires a wine with character, so I opted for a wine from Toro, a big and elegant wine, linked to the soil and traditions, to empower the timeless flavour of the ribs. Try this combination: it has a powerful mouthfeel and is simply delicious.

Meat Loaf

Finally, to close our round of pairings, I propose the classic dish of meatloaf. I love recipes whose base is ground meat. A similar dish to this, more European, is the famous shepherd’s pie. Occasionally, I cook it with Luke, guided by his wise and very British advice. Undoubtedly, however, American meatloaf has much more temperament, and the result is, perhaps, far more powerful.

Therefore I propose a wine that balances the powerful taste of the meatloaf, let’s try it with a red wine from Priorat. Sun-dried red and black plums, black cherry, and cassis will pair perfectly with those countless flavours exploding in your mouth.


On today’s podcast Roque and Luke head to Catalonia and take a bottle of one of Spain’s most highly-prized wine regions: Priorat. La Garnatxa Fosca, part of the Proyecto de Garnachas por España from Vintae wineries. They talk about stupid things and they talk about geeky things. But most of all, they talk about wine.

Check out our new episode!


Rioja. A word everyone knows. A word that conjures the image of shining glasses full of deep red wine pulled from the sun-soaked fields of Spain. For many, for most, Spanish wine is Rioja. Depending on the shop, other words, other regions, have started to drip into the marketplace: Ribera del Duero, Albariño, Priorat. And of course everyone knows sherry and Cava. But what of the rest of Spain? There are sixty-nine official wine regions and where are they represented? Where are they championed?

Madrid is Spain. A big melting pot of peoples and cultures stretching back to its founding in the 9th century by the Moors, who attacked and ruled the Iberian peninsula for a few hundred years. They brought rice, sugar cane, lemons and oranges, almonds, spinach and aubergines. They also helped to refine the gastronomy. But what of wine?

The Romans started it, exporting rough amphorae-fulls back to Rome. The Moors gently forbade it for drinking, but continued to tax the production. Then the Reconquest happened and the ruling Christians reopened the country to international trade, introducing wine to the British market for the first time. Things were going well until the 19th century when an epidemical plague of phylloxera ravaged Europe’s vineyards, bringing production to the brink of extinction. After the vines recovered in the 1900s Spain quickly became one of Europe’s leading winemaking countries. Madrid has been making wine since the 1300s but only received a Denominación de Origen (protected status, like for Champagne or Barolo) in 1990. They are young guns. Pretenders to the throne.

They are usually dark, youthful and full of rustic flavour when red; there are of course whites and rosés too. They can come from any of three subzones. So, just to get technical for a minute:

Sub-zone 1: Arganda – home of cutesy village Chinchón and UNESCO town Aranjuez. Located south east of Madrid. Sedimentary limestone soil; extreme winter and summer temperatures.

Sub-zone 2: Navalcarnero – home of the pretty town of the same name. Located south west of Madrid. Flat, sedimentary, loose soils of farmland origin.

Sub-zone 3: San Martin de Valdeiglesias – home of the Gredos mountains. Located in the extreme west of Madrid. Rugged zone, warmer and more humid temperatures. Granite soils on slopes and foothills.

These Madrid wines can be hard to track down internationally – we’ll put a top 6 selection of humdingers at the bottom of this blog – but within Spain they are gaining traction. The whole joy of wine is tasting the variety. Nobody wants to be that person who sticks to two or three bottles their whole lives ‘because they like it and trust it’.

There are 44 wineries in Madrid alone, so there is no excuse to not try them when you visit. The bars are also slowly but surely getting behind the Madrid wine train and are stocking them with more regularity. A lot of them are small, family-run or cooperative ventures without a lot of money to export on a massive scale. But they’re getting there; and my goodness are they friendly and welcoming. Coupled with a recent drive to export to the U.S., you could be seeing bottles of Vino de Madrid on the shelves sooner than you think!

A few of our favourite bodegas to check out:

  1. Bodega Regajal – Las Retamas (Tempranillo)
  2. Bodega Marañones – Treintamil Maravedíes (Garnacha)
  3. Bodega Bernabeleva – Navaherreros (Garnacha)
  4. Bodega Señorio de Val Azul – Fabio (Syrah, Cab Sav, Merlot)
  5. Bodega Las Moradas de San Martín – Initio (Garnacha)
  6. Bodegas Andrés Díaz – d’Ório (Tempranillo/Garnacha/Cab Sav)

From us here at SWE, salud!!