Following an inspirational trip to the Southern Rhône Valley last fall, I decided to finally take the leap to pursue a career after my love for wine. An idea I had been contemplating for some time while getting other valuable experiences on the books. As soon as I returned from Europe, I began searching for wine oriented masters programs abroad. Because let’s be honest, if I’m going to pay to go back to school to learn about wine I definitely want to be doing that in Europe.
While in France, I heard about a wine school in the Southern Rhône Valley called Université du Vin – Suze la Rousse. However, all of the school’s programs are taught in French. And unfortunately I don’t speak French…yet. So my search began for the perfect wine study program abroad. Somehow I came across what seemed like a dream opportunity, actually I still think it would be a dream opportunity. The Erasmus Mundus Master on Wine Tourism Innovation aka WINTOUR.
A two year master program including one semester in Tarragona, Spain, one semester in Porto, Portugal, one semester in Bordeaux, France and the fourth semester working with a wine industry partner company of the program in one of those countries. Say what?! Studying wine in some of the best and most historic wine regions of the world. Dreamy for sure. Plus, all of the coursework looked totally up my alley and right in line with my goals and ideas for where I want to land within the wine industry.
There was just one problem…the price tag. Living expenses and travel costs considered, I would need to spend right around a hefty $50,000. Money I didn’t have and a loan too large for my liking. So I decided to set my heart on the scholarship route. The WINTOUR program offers around 15 full scholarships each year with stipends for living and travel expenses. In February, I submitted my application, transcripts, and motivation essay.
Then I waited, and waited, and waited. I meditated on it, visualized getting the scholarship and flying to Europe, I even made a vision board – ha! Four months later I found out that I was not accepted to the program on a scholarship. As you can imagine, I was beyond disappointed! Although now I kind of have to admit the odds were not in my favor.
Besides the wine, the best part about being in Europe is all of the incredible food! I was especially looking forward to tapas in Spain. The concept of free, delicious bites with the purchase of an alcoholic beverage is genius and definitely one of my favorite aspects of Spanish culture. So to ease the pain of my disappointing rejection, I decided to make one of my Catalonian favorites – romesco sauce.
Besides, I had come across this intriguing recipe for yogurt-based flatbreads I was curious to try. Romesco seemed like the perfect sauce to pair with these flatbreads! When I was in Barcelona, I had a spicy romesco sauce on fish that was to die for. Though I have found romesco goes on just about anything – bread, vegetables, chicken, you name it. Romesco originated in Tarragona where the fishermen created the sauce to serve with the catch of the day. So it seemed appropriate to taste a piece of Tarragona at home as I will not be living there this fall.
Romesco is traditionally made with red peppers, garlic, almonds (or another type of nut), tomatoes, some type of pepper, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and sometimes a fresh herb of your choosing. For whatever reason, I don’t tend to have sherry vinegar in my pantry regularly so I tweaked the original recipe a bit using apple cider vinegar and white wine vinegar. You could boil the red peppers to cook them, but I prefer to roast them in the oven as oven-roasting, or even grilling, gives the peppers a richer flavor.
The Wine Pairing
What wine you choose to pair the romesco sauce with should wholly depend upon what you are serving with the romesco sauce. If you are serving the sauce as an appetizer with flatbreads, crostini, or on grilled vegetables, I would recommend a Brut Cava or an Albariño. An Albariño from Rias Baixas would be ideal.
The high acidity of a Brut Cava which helps to create that crispness on the palate will complement the heat and bold flavors of the romesco sauce. Plus, Cava has a palate-cleansing effect which is perfect for the spices of the sauce. Albariño is a white wine that also tends towards higher acidity and fruit forward notes. Think lemon, grapefruit, and melon characteristics that would complement the sweetness from the red peppers and the heat from spices in the sauce.
If you are serving the romesco sauce with fish or chicken, I’d opt for a lighter bodied red wine like a Pinot Noir, Beaujolais, or Spanish Garnacha. If serving the sauce with grilled steaks, try a full-bodied red like a Priorat. The mineral qualities of a Priorat would help to enhance the nuttiness of the romesco sauce.
When you whip up this romesco sauce, let me know how it goes, what you ate it with, or what wine you paired with your sauce in the comments below! I would also love if you snapped a photo of your dish with romesco sauce and tag me in a post on Instagram. (@palm.and.vine). Cheers!
This romesco sauce is super easy to make and utilizes common ingredients in your pantry. This sauce is perfect with flatbreads, fish, and chicken. Romesco sauce is great on turkey sandwiches or even on grilled vegetables and steaks.
- 2 red bell peppers
- 3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup tomato puree
- 2 tbsp parsley
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp smoke paprika
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2-3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Wash red bell peppers. Remove the stem, seeds, and veins. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for 30 minutes or until the skins start to blacken. You could also broil or grill the peppers instead.
While the bell peppers are roasting, mince the parsley and garlic clove. Toast the almond slivers in a pan over low heat or in a toaster oven.
Place the roasted peppers in a brown paper bag once removed from the oven for 5 minutes. Then peel off the skins of the peppers.
Rough chop the peppers, then place all of the ingredients except for the extra-virgin olive oil into a food processor. Pulse until all of the ingredients are finely chopped.
With the food processor still running, slowly add the olive oil and process until smooth.