Raul Diaz continues his monthly series analysing different grape varieties and then breaking them down to analyse what styles of food and recipes you can follow that make the most of their unique characteristics. This time around he turns his attention on Garnacha and makes the case for why this is one of the most versatile grape varieties for any cook to work with, from big meat dishes, to fish soups, and never better expressed than when paired with chickpeas and chorizo.
Looking for some inspiration this weekend for something different to eat and drink, well Raul Diaz has this chickpeas and chorizo recipe that he says is just ideal for any bottle of Garnacha you might be able to come across.
Garnacha (or Grenache in France) thrives in hot, dry locations. Full of delicious strawberry fruits, it packs a real punch with high alcohol. Old vines in Priorat and other areas of Spain make wines with amazing depth and complexity. Grenache also grows quite happily in the southern Rhône. It is a versatile grape that can produce wines of various styles – from light to full bodied, and even sweet wines. It is commonly used in France and Spain as part of a blend for rosé wines.
This beautiful grape creates light and smooth wines packed with red berries that are delicious by the glass, but that can also pair well with charcuterie and light cheeses. Medium-bodied examples match perfectly with pork, sausages, poultry and even oily fish like monkfish and salmon. When it comes to the fuller-bodied wines, Garnacha can surprise you with its spicy, gamey, and sometimes charred flavours. Oak treatment – when is present – will add some nice smoky notes.
Classic recipes that pair well with Garnacha are grilled meat, roast beef, lamb, steak, stews, casseroles, game and even a powerful and concentrated fish soup. If any of these dishes are well seasoned with exotic spices will add a very attractive dimension to the wine pairing. Another fantastic pairing option is BBQ. You can check how versatile Garnacha is the next time that you prepare a BBQ. Try to get a couple of examples of this grape; for example, a light style – hopefully un-oaked – that can be chilled and a more robust style with concentrated fruits and toasty notes from the oak treatment.
Last tip to consider is to check the alcohol content when it comes to wine and food pairing. Garnacha naturally produces high level of sugar which means that wines with high alcohol content are quite common. If the wine is a bit punchy – in terms of the alcohol – be careful. This element of the wine can react in a negative way with the natural spicy character of Garnacha. Having said that, at the end of the day, it’s your own choice. If you are happy with an intense interaction between alcohol and spices, go for it.
Remember, don’t be ruled by the rules. Your own preferences are the most important thing when it comes to wine and food pairing.
Light style wines are easy to drink with refreshing acidity. They fill the mouth with fresh strawberries, hints of other red fruits and perhaps a little earth or leather.
Older vines and smaller yields allow for more complex wines that have great ability to age. These wines have the potential for a variety of aromas: concentrated fruits, spices, coffee, leather, roasted nuts and more.
Cherry, strawberry, raspberry, black cherry, black pepper, leather.
Priorat, Rhône Valley, Sardinia.
Cannonau di Sardegna, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône, Minervois, Navarra, Priorat and Rioja.
Chickpeas with Chorizo
This is a recipe that I prepare frequently. Chickpeas with chorizo is inspired by ingredients from southern Spain. The chorizo adds spice, and the chickpeas have a pleasing, chewy texture and are a great source of fibre and protein. The addition of the other vegetables makes for a nice blend of different flavours and textures. Garnacha, one of my favourite black grapes, is an excellent choice with this dish. The red fruit flavours and spicy notes will complement the recipe well.
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the chorizo and fry gently to release the oils and give it some colour. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan, and set aside.
2. Add the onion, red pepper, celery and carrot to the chorizo oil in the pan. Season with salt and black pepper and cook for 10 minutes until the vegetables are softened.
3. Return the chorizo to the pan along with the chickpeas and tomatoes. Add 100ml water and cook for another 10 minutes until you have a slightly thickened sauce. Stir through most of the coriander, then taste and adjust the seasoning.
4. Sprinkle with the remaining coriander to serve.
Time: 30 minutes
2 tbsp olive oil
200g chorizo, roughly chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 red pepper, finely chopped
4 celery sticks, finely sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced
2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 x 400g tin chopped
a bunch of coriander, finely chopped
sea salt and black pepper
Good value option
Viña Zorzal Garnacha, Navarra, Spain
Sants, Catalunya, Spain
- Raul Diaz is author of Wines & Recipes, published in November 2020 (£30, www.winetraining.co.uk), shortlisted as a finalist for Wine Education in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2020 (to be announced in June). A Chilean-born sommelier who became a WSET-certified wine educator, he now runs his own business, Wine Training School. He has been a TV wine presenter for Sunday Brunch, Channel 4 for several years. He is UK Ambassador for VDP German wines, and in 2018 received the award for Rioja Communicator of the Year.