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Rioja Wines and Pintxos: A Perfect Pairing

Rioja wines are known for their exceptional food-friendliness. From wild mushrooms and hearty roasted meats to complex rice dishes, there is likely to be a Rioja that will complement or contrast the food beautifully. There are many reasons for Rioja’s facility with food. Apart from a climate perfectly suited to viticulture and a red grape, Tempranillo, that, like Sangiovese or Pinot Noir, has properties that make it compatible with food without overwhelming it, Rioja boasts an almost head-spinning diversity of styles. There's so much more to these wines than simply the beautiful substantial, earthy red Reservas and Gran Reservas. Though those styles may be the most familiar, you'll be pleased to learn that Rioja wines offers something for everyone.

When in San Sebastian, Spain, the world-famous Bar Begara offers many Riojas to complement their expansive offerings of pintxos (PEEN-chos). Red and White Riojas are served here, as well as less-familiar Rosado Rioja wines. Proprietor Patxi (PAH-chee) Bergara has found that of the over 30 different pintxos served at Bar Bergara, almost every one can be paired beautifully with a wine from Rioja.

What is a Pintxo?

Pintxo means spike or thorn in the Basque language (in Spanish it's spelled "pincho"). Emanating from Basque Country, pintxos are appetizers that involve a bread base (often a thick slice of baguette) piled with various flavorful combinations and stuck with a toothpick. The toothpick serves two purposes in pintxos: they hold the sometimes highly-stacked toppings onto the bread, and they also serve as a means for tabulating how many pintxos were eaten when the bill is ready to be paid.

Pintxos are topped with anything the chef desires, from seafood salads to cheese and tomato to a wedge of a tortilla española. They are often beautifully garnished, providing lovely contrasts of flavor and texture. And nothing complements a pintxo like a glass of wine. Patxi offers several styles of Rioja wines to accompany his bar's pintxos.

In this video, he pairs white Riojas with one of his bar's most iconic pintxos -- the Bergara Pintxos made with fruit and seafood. Watch as he and Adrian Murcia discuss why these white Riojas work well with this dish (Flash video):

White Rioja Wines paired with the Bergara Pintxo

Now learn how the Bergara Pintxo is made (Flash video):

Recipe demonstration: The Bergara Pintxo

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