Pair This With Your Next Paprika Dish!
I love smoked paprika. It’s a seasoning that I usually slip in with others when I roast vegetables or slow cook meats to give an extra depth of flavor. It’s super flavorful and unexpected.
I also love Spanish reds. Earthy, smoky, deep and sexy – all at the same time. I’m almost always in the mood for glass, or bottle!
Together, they make for a magical pairing – that is, if you have a palate that appreciates big, bold flavors! Now, you might reach for a bottle of Tempranillo. After all, this is Spain’s most popular grape variety, and it is known for its hallmark notes of smoky tobacco, spice, oak and leather. Maybe some Garnacha, you say? This is fruitier and juicier, but with cinnamon and pepper, as well. While both would work, the Spanish red you are actually looking for is Monastrell!
So What Is Monastrell?
Before I get into the details of this pairing, let me provide a little info on this varietal to those of you who may not be well aware. I actually didn’t have my first glass of Monastrell until December 2016, and even then I didn’t know what I was drinking – I just bought a glass because it was offered to me at a tapas restaurant and I liked it!
Monastrell is actually one of the most popular grapes to be grown in Spain, behind the usual suspects of Tempranillo, Airén, and Garnacha. It is often used for blending, instead of used as a standalone variety. Maybe you are familiar with Mourvèdre? Yeah, that’s what Monastrell is, just grown specifically in Spain!
Monastrell grapes are extremely complex with a thick deep-purple skin and high acidity. This produces a very full-bodied wine with lots of tannins and a rich, dark hue. Aromas tend to be of smoke, licorice, almond, and plum; flavors are dry with tea, herbs, leather and game. Some even present with saffron and yes – paprika!
What Did I Pair?
I have a love affair with my slow cooker, as I am sure many of you do as well. I had some chicken leg quarters, homemade chicken stock, and a couple tablespoons left of smoked paprika that I needed to use up. I stumbled across this Slow Cooker Paprika Chicken recipe after a quick Google search, and quickly threw everything into the pot before work one Friday morning. I made a couple tweaks (no potatoes or capers, used chives instead of parsley), set it to low, and came back home almost 10 hours later to find the most succulent leggies. Now all that was left was finding a good match for it.
I almost opened a bottle of Carménère. Montes Purple Angel 2010, to be exact. But no – I needed to save that for a special occasion, and this was just a random Friday night. I still wanted to have a nice bottle of wine, however, so I knew the next perfect thing. Juan Gil 12 Meses Jumilla Red 2014. A popular Monastrell that I have been hearing lots of good things about, that my boyfriend was kind enough to buy for me during a recent stock up. I knew immediately this Spanish red would be a match made in smoky heaven! And OMG, was it ever.
Why Does This Pairing Work?
Big flavors need a big wine. This rule is true for any pairing. But you need to proceed with caution, here. The key is complimenting both the food and wine. For example, Port is a rich wine, but you can’t really go pairing that with, say, a seafood curry.
In the case of Monastrell and paprika, the reason this pairing works is because each has smoky elements that play off and compliment one another. The paprika is sweet, while the Monastrell is more herbaceous and savory. The game and leather notes also offset the sweetness of the paprika, while the spiciness of the paprika adds a much-needed mouthwatering effect to the drying tannins of the wine
Another great aspect of this pairing is it is unexpected and unique. I have seen Merlots as a suggestion for paprika dishes, but that seems a bit boring. Grenache/Garnacha is also a popular go-to for food with similar spices and seasonings. As I mentioned earlier, these can be a bit juicy, and if that is what you are looking for, then it is a reliable pairing. But if you are looking to try something different, and don’t want a popular well-known wine (read: Tempranillo), then Monastrell is a great alternative!
Some may say to be careful of this pairing – Monastrell is highly acidic and should not be paired with spicy food as it could burn the throat. But paprika is not spicy in the way hot peppers are. In fact, I actually found my Monastrell to be a little harsher on the throat without food! If you find paprika to be too intense for your taste buds, then proceed with caution, But if you love this seasoning as much as I do, you will be amazed at just how much more depth it can bring to not only your wine, but your whole meal!
Enrique Mendoza La Tremenda Monastrell Alicante (Alicante, Spain $13.99)
Juan Gil 12 Meses Jumilla Red (Jumilla, Spain $14.99)
Orowines Comoloco (Jumilla, Spain $7.99)
Paprika Recipe Suggestions