Seafood Paella and Mixed Paella pair best with rich white wines, such as Roussanne, Chardonnay and Viognier. Meanwhile, Lighter red wines such as Garnacha, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir and Rioja Crianza are excellent with Paella containing duck, sausage, or rabbit.
Paella is a Spanish rice dish prepared with lobster, clams, shrimp, squid, snails, clams, rabbit, chicken, and Chorizo. You’ll also find vegetables such as red peppers, onions, butter beans, and Saffron infused rice. Recipes vary as Paella is a medium where you’d use whatever is on hand and thus and all manner of seafood, vegetable or meat could be tossed in. With seafood Paella, expect a hint of iodine. For Paella that contains duck, rabbit, sausage, Saffron flavoured rice, and red peppers, expect more savoury flavours.
Best Wines with Paella
Viognier & Seafood Paella Pairing
Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc are often recommended with Seafood Paella, as the crisp and citrusy flavours offer a pleasant contrast against the seafood flavours of the dish. I, however, much prefer a creamier white wine, such as an oak-aged Viognier. I just love how the round flavours of an oaked Viognier blends together with the Saffron flavours of the creamy rice.
Oaked Viognier is a rich and creamy white wine with aromas of vanilla, nutmeg and almond that blend in nicely with the various vegetables and meats found in your Seafood Paella. You’ll also find peach, citrus, orange rind, pear and tropical fruit aromas, which lift the seafood flavours up and contrast the savoury flavours of the salty sea-breeze kissed dish.
Roussanne & Mixed Paella Pairing
By Mixed Paella, I mean a Paella that is a blend of seafood and meat such as chicken, chorizo, rabbit or duck. Paella in North America is often a mix of ‘surf and turf’ as the ingredients are readably available, although, unless you live on the coast, the seafood will probably from frozen.
An Oaked Aged Roussanne from the Rhone Valley of France is a full-bodied white wine with flavours of herbs, honey, minerals, melons, pears and peaches. The minerality of Roussanne complements the iodine flavours of the seafood, while the creamy texture of the white wine complements the silkiness of the saffron-flavoured rice. Meanwhile, you get a refreshing contrast with the notes of apricot, apple, pear, peach and orange of Roussanne.
Because it is full-bodied, Roussanne has no issue holding up to the stronger flavours of duck or rabbit, provided you have plenty of seafood tossed into your Paella to cut down on the savoury factor.
Roussanne might be difficult for you to find as often what is imported into North America is blended with other grapes to create a white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Hermitage Blanc or Saint Joseph. The French labelling can make finding Roussanne a touch difficult, however, look for bottles by Yves Cuilleron, Jaboulet, Jean Luc Colombo and Château de Beaucastel for quality Roussanne. In past 25 years several producers in California, Washington and Australia have been creating delicious Roussanne that might be easier to find. I particularly enjoy d’Arenberg Roussanne out of Australia and Bonny Doon, Rubicon, Tablas Creek and Zaca Mesa out of California.
If you want a want to stick to white wines you are familiar with, a moderately oaked Chardonnay will pair up nice with Paella due to the wine’s creamy body and rich vanilla flavours.
Rosé & Mixed Paella Pairing
If your Mixed Paella is swimming with shellfish, you’ll want to skip red wines completely as the tannin found in red wine makes shellfish taste metallic. Rosé, however, is the perfect in-between for red and with wine as it is food-friendly, versatile and acidic. With Rosé, you’ll still find those juicy berry flavours you love in red wine, such as strawberry, cherry and raspberry. The berry flavours are wonderful with any dark meat, such as Chorizo, rabbit, or duck as they hold up to the stronger flavours. You’ll also find a zippy kiss of citrus in Rosé, such as lemon and lime, that work beautifully with the seafood component of your Mixed Paella.
Rosé is exceptional with Paella on the patio in the afternoon sun. Incredibly refreshing, a chilled glass of Rosé hits the spot, and provides an excellent contrast against the saffron-flavoured rice and savoury flavours of mixed Paella.
Garnacha & Paella Valenciana Pairing
Paella Valenciana (sometimes referred to as Filipino arroz a la Valenciana) is made with chicken, duck, rabbit, green beans, Chorizo, tomato, bell peppers, and glutinous rice flavoured with either kasubha or annatto seeds. Of course, given the global world we live in, my description is debatable as thousands of variations for Paella Valenciana exist.
Seeing as Paella Valenciana does not contain seafood, Paella Valenciana pairs best with medium-bodied red wines that are higher in acidity than tannin, such as Garnacha. Heavier reds will overpower the vast array of flavours in Paella Valenciana, such as any green beans, bell peppers and herbs. The tannin in a heavier red will also clash with the tomatoes in the dish, making the wine taste metallic.
Garnacha is the Spanish of Grenache, and it’s the same grape, just spelled differently. In France, Grenache is often blended with other grapes such as Mouvedre or Syrah, while in Spain, you’ll often find single varietal Garnachas. Medium in body, and low to medium in tannin, Garnacha serves up earthy red wines that are incredibly fruity with bright flavours of cooked cherries, cranberries, jam, stewed raspberry and strawberry. These fruitier flavours hold up to the savoury meat flavours of duck, Chorizo and rabbit, while injecting a mouthful of refreshment.
Meanwhile, with Garnacha, you’ll find complementary flavours of black pepper, herbs, mineral, leather, white pepper and tobacco that are delightful with the savoury bliss of Paella Valenciana.
Rioja Crianza & Filipino arroz a la Valenciana Pairing
Rioja Crianza is another classic Spanish red wine that is perfect with Paella Valenciana. There are three popular tiers of Rioja, with Crianza being the youngest and least oaked age, making for a light and fruity red wine. Incredibly versatile, Rioja Crianza will get along with the wide variety of ingredients in your Paella while serving up tart fruity flavours of black cherry, blackberry and raspberry. Rioja Crianza is also acidic enough to get along with any tomatoes in your Valenciana Paella, provided the tomatoes don’t dominate the dish.
If your Paella Valenciana contains very few tomatoes and is rich with duck and rabbit, I’d reach for a Rioja Reserva or a Rioja Gran Reserva. With these styles of Rioja, you’ll see some oak ageing that imparts exquisite flavours of smoke, vanilla, leather and earth that are wonderful with the savoury duck and rabbit meat. The bolder flavours for an oak-aged Rioja also hold up better to the richer flavours of duck meat. Rioja Reserva and Rioja Gran Reserva will cost you more (as oak ageing isn’t cheap) and are best reserved for intimate gatherings where you have time to reflect on how amazing these Spanish Red wines are.