Author: Fiona Beckett
If you’re a bit hesitant about the idea of matching fish and red wine you might automatically think of pairing paella with a white wine. But I think it goes just as well with a rosé or a red.
Recipes vary – and are much argued over – but typically the dish will include chicken or rabbit, prawns, mussels or clams, red peppers, pimenton and saffron-flavoured rice. Some Latin-American versions – and Simon Hopkinson’s* (see below) – also include spicy sausage but in general it’s more a savoury than a spicy dish and the seafood note isn’t dominant.
It’s also typically eaten at a relaxed sort of family gathering so I wouldn’t advocate anything too grand. A chilled dry rosé from Navarra or Rioja (one of the more traditional bottlings, not the more fruit driven rosés made in a New World style) generally hits the spot perfectly but there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t drink an inexpensive red Rioja or other medium-bodied tempranillo or garnacha (grenache) or garnacha blends (again lightly chilled till cool rather than at room temperature). But I’d avoid ‘fruit-bombs’ or overly alcoholic, tannic reds.
Looking outside Spain, lighter reds and rosés from the neighbouring Languedoc-Roussillon would work well as would the new wave of characterful roussanne, marsanne and viognier-based Languedoc whites if white wine is your preference.
What I look for in a white with paella is an earthy richness rather than a sharp citrussy or floral character so I personally wouldn’t go for the crisp unoaked style of white Rioja that’s popular. Or a Rueda. (You’ll enjoy them more, I think, with simply prepared fried or grilled seafood on its own.)