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Spanish wines are a great partner for sausage dishes

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Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

D ating to the Roman era, every fall, Iberian Peninsula farmers have made spicy, air-cured pork sausages, today known as chorizo. The family traditions revolve around the matanza or “slaughter” of pigs.

After butchering, the addition of garlic and red paprika to the coarsely chopped pork and pork fat creates chorizo's distinctive red hue, enticing smoky aroma and piquant flavor. The final step entails enclosing the fresh chorizo in natural casings made from intestines.

The sausages form a trademark “U” shape in preparation for being hung in darkened cellars for air-dried curing over the winter, spring and summer. The sausages emerge with firm, chewy texture, juicy, succulent meat and distinct chunks of fat.

Throughout the work during butchering, families enjoy eating slices of the previous year's sliced chorizo with local cheeses and crusty bread. Chorizo plays a key role in easy-to-make, tasty recipes, too. Homemade wine completes the pleasure.

Today in America, chorizo's popularity grows steadily. In addition to Spanish chorizo, the many options include Mexican chorizo and excellent versions made right here in Western Pennsylvania. Choose from spicy hot, mild and sweet versions. For authentic Spanish chorizo available locally, buy the popular Palacios brand from Rioja in Northern Spain. The package label indicates “Auténtico Chorizo Español.”

Try the following chorizo and wine combinations:

For a warm avocado and chorizo salad, saute chorizo slices in olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a pinch of sugar. Toss the chorizo and liquid with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes and avocado slices.

Pair the salad with the lovely 2013 Miguel Torres Viña Sol, Catalunya, Spain (Luxury 43609; $11.99), a refreshing white wine made in the mountains near Barcelona.

Talented visionary winemaker Miguel Torres began evolving the style of this tasty wine in 1963. He used parellada and garnacha blanc, traditional Catalan grapes, grown at high altitudes to produce fresh, aromatic fruit. Fermentation at low temperatures in stainless steel captures the grapes' essence without oxidation and oaky influences.

The resulting wine's light straw color unfolds bright peach, melon and white-flower aromas. Apple, peach and pineapple flavors balance with zesty acidity through the dry, yet fruity finish. Highly recommended.

The popular Northern Spanish dish of potatoes with Rioja chorizo, plays perfectly with the local Rioja red wines. Saute chopped onion and garlic. In a separate pan, fry sliced chorizo and peeled and sliced potatoes. Add a chopped green pepper, a bay leaf, beef stock and the onions and garlic. Cover and simmer until the potatoes become tender. Remove the bay leaf and add salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve the stew with the 2008 Bodega Heredad de Aduna Rioja Reserva, Spain (Luxury 33234; Chairman's Selection, on sale: $15.99). Grown in chalky clay soils under the looming presence of the rugged Sierra de Cantabria mountain range, the wine incorporates tempranillo and mazuelo grapes from old vines.

The relatively cool, dry climate accentuates the grapes' marvelous fruity aromas. Aging the wine for 16 months in American oak casks adds complexity and structure.

Red fruit and spicy, woody aromas open to ripe, red fruit and liquorice flavors. Fresh acidity and supple, elegant tannins frame the fruity, spicy finish. Recommended.

Finally, for a classic ploughman's lunch, simply slice some spicy chorizo and serve with aged Manchego cheese and crusty, fresh baguettes slices. Made from sheep's milk in Spain's La Mancha region, the Manchego's creamy texture and slightly piquant flavors serve as a perfect foil for the fiery chorizo.

Wash down the feast with the fruity and flavorful 2011 Bodegas Ondalán Rioja Crianza, Spain (Luxury 43595; $15.99). Located in Oyón in Rioja Alavesa, a Basque enclave within Northern Rioja, Ondalán cultivates about 150 acres of vineyards over soils rich in lime mixed with clay.

This traditional blend of primarily tempranillo with a healthy dose of graciano ages in a combination of American and French oak casks for 14 months for added complexity.

The dark ruby color offers plum and balsamic aromas. Strawberry and plum fruit flavors layer with smooth tannins and bright acidity for a well balanced finish.Recommended.

Dave DeSimone writes about wine for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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