In the iconic Spanish wine regions of Ribera del Duero and Rioja, the culinary landscape is as rich and diverse as the wines that have made these areas famous. While renowned for their exceptional vineyards and winemaking traditions, these regions also boast a gastronomic culture that is deeply rooted in the Spanish tradition of sharing small, flavorful bites with friends and family.
What Are Pinchos?
The culinary practice of serving small bites is known by various names across Spain, including pintxos, pinchos, and tapas. This tradition traces its origins to the social and convivial atmosphere of local bars, where people have long gathered in the company of family and friends to savor an array of tasty dishes.
While tapas is typically a smaller-sized portion of a dish, the term pincho (or pintxo in Basque) originates from the Spanish word “pinchar,” which means to pierce, and a pincho is more of a “finger food,” often served on a small skewer or toothpick (sometimes on a piece of bread).
More Than Just Food: The Cultural Significance of Pinchos in Spain
Pintxos and pinchos— as they are most commonly referred to in northern Spain— are more than just appetizers. The bite-sized servings make them easy to share and enjoy, and they represent a communal experience, a celebration of flavors, and a reflection of the local culture. What better way to socialize than a pinchos “crawl”— hopping from one spot to another with a group of friends, sipping small glasses of wine or beer, and sampling a variety of pinchos.
Each region puts its unique twist on these culinary offerings, incorporating local ingredients and traditional culinary techniques. In the Ribera del Duero and Rioja regions, where wine is a way of life, the pintxos often complement the bold or nuanced flavors of the renowned wines. Traditional offerings may include chorizo-stuffed mushrooms or peppers, patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), marinated olives, and cured meats. The diverse selection provides a delicious journey through the flavors of the land.
A Culinary Adventure in Rioja
In the town of Logroño, located in the heart of the Rioja wine region, you’ll find a narrow street called Calle del Laurel. This is the main pinchos hub in the city, featuring over 50 pinchos bars in a concentrated area. Most are tiny establishments— standing room only with people spilling into the street— and often specialize in a single type of pincho. A few bars you may come across include one that exclusively serves garlicky grilled mushroom and shrimp, a spot that specializes in cochinillo crocante (roasted suckling pig), and another that offers only a certain type of meat kebab. The overall atmosphere on the street is lively and friendly, and you shouldn’t be surprised if locals recommend their favorite pinchos or bars.
So, whether you're sipping a robust Ribera del Duero red or enjoying the elegant Rioja wines, be sure to complement your wine journey with the unforgettable experience of pintxos and pinchos, a culinary adventure that showcases the rich variety of flavors found in these Spanish wine regions. A pinchos crawl offers a sensory feast, a social gathering, and a delicious way to immerse yourself in Spanish culture and traditions.
For an introduction to the wines of Rioja and Ribera del Duero, click here.