If you didn’t know this about me, you should – I am passionate about wine! Before I became a dietitian, I worked in restaurants for years as I went through school and I got to learn from some some amazing bartenders and servers who started teaching me about wine, wine service, cocktails and food pairings before I was even 21. Part of what inspired me to go back to school for nutrition was definitely this passion for food and wine culture.
It’s been a few years now since I was in school and I miss it! I found an amazing wine program in Seattle through the NW Wine Academy and South Seattle College. Though these courses, you can take a class or you can work towards a degree or certificate. I’m in the Food&Wine Pairing program where I get to learn about the sensory aspects of wine tasting, food and wine pairing including special courses just on cheese or dessert, wines of the world, history of wine, wines of Washington, and more.
As part of my Intro to Food&Wine Pairing class,my final is to pair a wine with a dish and tell the story behind the combo. So here’s my final, Basque-Style Vegetables with Rice (and wine pairing!), in the form of a blog, because I want to share with all of you what I learn and why this is important to me. You’ll see much more about food and wine pairings on this site because after all, I’m Champagne Nutrition and food and wine is important to me because I’m a dietitian.
For years, I’ve been intrigued by people living in the Basque region, an autonomous community living in the Spain/France border region which encompasses sea and mountain cultures and cuisines. Geographically, it lies in the North of Spain near the Bay of Biscany and in the South West of France in the Pyrenees Mountains. It is divided into three provinces: Alava, Guipuzcoa, and Vizcaya. They have their own language, cuisine, and are fiercely independent.
There’s a wonderful Basque restaurant in Seattle, Harvest Vine. And there was one in Chicago in my Logan Square neighborhood, Telegraph (no longer in this location, sadly). It is at this restaurant that I learned how much I love wine from the Basque region and I learned that I really enjoy minerality which was a total wine-game-changer to me. I told the bartender there: “I love this wine! It tastes like I’m licking a rock“. The problem for me with Basque food is that it’s quite meat-based. I knew that for this assignment, I wanted to create a Basque dish but that proved a challenge. But then I found this wonderful recipe for Basque-style vegetables with rice in EatingWell September/October 2007 and adapted it for class.
Basque cuisine is savory, complex, and seafood-based. Dishes often feature eggs, wild mushrooms and other local vegetables. Studies show that Basque people spend more than twice as much as their income as people in the US do. Food is a way of life for these people and quality ingredients are a big focus.
Basques have a long history of making wine with evidence that vineyards in the region have been tended since the Roman Empire. Wine making was also part of religious orders in this area. Rioja is one of Spain’s most important wine regions, growing at the foot of the Sierra de Tolono Mountains where soil is poor with a high clay and limestone content. Wines grown here are known for their full body and high acidity. Traditional wine-making in the Basque region includes carbonic maceration.
This rice dish is light, zesty and earthy, made with savory broth, onions, bell peppers, and dried herbs. I knew that it needed a white wine with some body and acidity to match. We learned that earthy foods love earthy wines and sparkling wines are known for having a yeasty, earthy flavor. At a restaurant I worked at for years, we served a simple Spanish cava called Segura Viudas. The price point is completely approachable and it is widely available at stores like Trader Joes and other grocery stores. Segura Viudas is a go-to I buy often and I even served it at my wedding!
Segura Viudas is an estate that dates back to the 11th century where it started an an inhabited watchtower and was later converted into a Catalan country house which grew wine grapes for their local monastery. As early as the 1850’s the winery began making Cavas and the property was purchased by the Ferrer family of Barcelona in the 1980’s. Located about an hour from Barcelona in the Penedes region of Spain, there is a wide range of wine styles produced in the area including the Traditional Method (sparkling) white and rosé Cava, dry reds, dry whites, and dessert whites. Wine-making in Penedes dates back to the Ancient Roman and today, grapes used for Cava include Macabeo, Xare.lo, Parellada, Chardonnay, and Malvasía Riojana. The soil type here features limestone, sand and clay while the climate is Mediterranean and mild with an average year round temperature of about 60 degrees F.
This pairing follows a couple food and wine pairing “rules”:
- high salty foods work better with wines that have high effervescence
- spicy food should be paired with off-dry acidic white wine
- flavor intensity of wine and food should be equal to ensure an equal impact by each gastronomic partnerI hope you enjoy this simple side dish, Basque-Style Vegetables with Rice and complementary wine, Segura Viudas Cava. Let me know what you think if you try them together!