The best food pairings for rioja
Rioja - and by that I mean red rioja - is one of the UK's best-loved wines and one of the easiest ones to match with food too.
As you’d expect it pairs particularly well with Spanish food especially lamb and pork and recipes that contain red peppers, pimenton, garlic and saffron.
The main thing to bear in mind is the style of the wine - whether it’s a young (joven) rioja which can handle quite robust, even spicy dishes, or an older (reserva or gran reserva) one which would benefit from more simply prepared food. Riojas that are made in a more modern style can also handle more spice than more traditional ones. Modern Indian food with rioja is a surprising hit.
These dishes will generally work with most riojas:
* Almost any kind of lamb dish from roast lamb to tender lamb cutlets grilled over vine clippings (a local favourite in the region) to slow braised lamb shanks or even a rogan josh. Shepherds pie, Lancashire hotpot, merguez, moussaka . . . It’s hard to think of a lamb dish that doesn’t work with rioja.
* Many pork dishes especially cooked Spanish style with beans. Chorizo and morcilla (black pudding) are both good pairings for younger riojas as are jamon (ham) and albondigas (meatballs) making red rioja a good match for more robust tapas.
* Dishes with red peppers and/or pimenton or paprika
* Almost any kind of mild or medium-hot dish with chillies like chilli con carne and other chiles. (Rioja suits south-west American food and American barbecue)
* Dishes with saffron such as paella or Moroccan tagines - including, surprisingly, chicken with preserved lemon and olives and Mediterranean-style fish stews
* Older gran reserva riojas are especially good with roast game birds such as pheasant and partridge. Indian-style game dishes work well with younger riojas
* Cheese, especially hard sheeps’ cheeses such as Manchego, although a mellow rioja reserva is a generally reliable choice with a cheeseboard - unlike many reds.
See also The best matches for white Rioja
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