Chipotle Tacos + Tempranillo

This is not a recipe blog, and I’m not a fantastic cook, but let me tell you I have a great recipe for spicy, InstaPot chipotle chicken tacos. I use this great one from RecipeTin Eats and usually follow it pretty closely except for some varied ingredients here and there.

But I won’t bore you with all that. The main thrust is that I use a delicious concoction of adobo chipotle chiles, tomatoes, and garlic to create spicy shredded chicken that is perfect for throwing onto a tortilla for tacos. The process also creates its own sauce that makes for a wonderful, spicy taco sauce.

So there’s the main dish: spicy chicken tacos.

But the wine.

This began as a search for a great, go-to pairing for Tempranillo. Because Tempranillo is delicious and we don’t drink enough of it. The other day, I picked up two Spanish wines that were begging for a food pairing, and they did not disappoint.

  1. 2018 Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza
  2. 2019 Bodegas Breca Garnacha

Rioja wines from Spain are usually made with Tempranillo, which is the dominant grape in the area. Garnacha (Grenache) plays a big role too. The Garnacha above is not actually from Rioja, but still.

When pairing with spicy food, you can go with a semi-sweet, high-acid white wine to help cool down the spice (like Riesling or Gewürztraminer). Or, sometimes it’s fun to play up the flavors of the spice with an equally powerful red wine that matches it. That’s where Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, and Zinfandel come in. These wines tend to feel “spicy” thanks to notes of peppercorn, peppers, smoke, cloves, and oak — and they have a good chance of tasting fantastic with a spicy dish.

While both the Spanish wines above are delicious, there was a clear winner.

The Breca Garnacha is loaded with rich, ripe fruit flavors, like plum and blackberry, and had some nice black peppery and spice notes coming through to balance the fruit.

But the Marques de Caceres Rioja has more intense spice, thanks in part to stronger tannins and acidity that helped boost the flavors through the roof. You get notes of fresh pepper and herbs, plus blueberries and plums, and chocolate, all blending together in a beautiful way with spicy adobo chipotle sauce.

The strong pepper notes in the Rioja are a great match for the smoky spice of chipotle chicken, and the wine’s high acidity helps wash it all down without burning your mouth. So next time you’re fortunate enough to have a plate of spicy tacos in front of you, try toasting it with a Rioja Crianza!