September is one of our favorite times of the year. The blistering summer sun has calmed down, the nights are cooler, and the evenings are perfect for gathering around a fire pit with a glass of wine. In fact, let’s just plan an evening around the fire pit! Paella, a rice dish originally from Valencia, is a spicy one-pot meal cooked over such a fire. Many non-Spaniards think of it as Spain’s national dish, but Spaniards consider it to be a dish from the Valencian region. In turn, Valencians regard paella as one of their identifying symbols. Paella is a rice dish that can have meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables and is characterized by its use of saffron to give it a yellow color and unique flavor.
Valencian rice is simmered in sofrito, smoked paprika, piquillo peppers, and saffron. The meats can vary from shrimp, muscles, chicken, or rabbit, and then traditionally either green beans or peas are added. This is a wonderful dish to have simmering on the fire pit as your guests enjoy their favorite beverage.
What wines to pair with this aromatic and spicy dish? Our go-to wine for spice is the Rosé. Top picks: French Rosé from Bandol or Rhone; Spanish Garnacha, Tempranillo, or Beirzo Mencia; or Italian Ripasso.
Capsaicin, the molecule that gives chili peppers their fire, increases the sensitivity of our taste buds, so chilled wine seems colder than it actually is. Keep rosés only slightly chilled, serving them warmer than usual. Serve red wines with a slight chill to maximize their aromas and taste. Avoid beer or fizzy drinks because carbonation intensifies and prolongs the burning effect of capsaicin. If you like more heat in your Paella, keep the carbonated drinks to a minimum. Not a wine drinker? Infuse water with fresh sliced strawberries, peaches, and vanilla.
Set the table in a simple, rustic setting to keep the attention on the fire pit. Invest in a good Paella pan. They’re easy to find and range from $30-60 depending on size. Spring for a bigger pan because Paella is a crowd pleaser!