Exploration’s Impact on our Cuisine Today

The Moors conquered much of Spain in the 8th century and remained until 1492, with wine forbidden for religious reasons during this period. After the Reconquista ended in 1492, the Moors were expelled. The Spanish wine industry was then redeveloped and today ranks #3 worldwide, behind France and Italy.

Columbus, an Italian from Genoa, sailed to the New World for Spain. Both Italy and Spain have rich food and wine traditions. Columbus and his fellow explorers contributed to our cuisine as we know it today.

Olives, broad beans, rice, sugar cane, barley, coffee and grapes were introduced to the New World, along with cattle, pigs, goats and sheep. The explorers returned with corn, sweet potatoes, potatoes, peanuts and other Native American foods that were incorporated into their food culture.

What wines were popular in Columbus’ time? Many produced near his Genoa home and neighboring Piedmont are white, such as vernaccia, vermentino, moscato, malvasia, gavi and arneis, perfect pairings for Genovese dishes of preserved fish (herring, tuna, sardines and anchovies), salads, vegetables and herbs, especially basil. Red wines Columbus may have enjoyed are dolcetto and cannonau (grenache from Sardinia).

Modern day expressions of these wines are available from Sonoma’s Jacuzzi Winery (www.jacuzziwines.com) and Italy’s Michele Chiarlo. (www.michelechiarlo.it)

Some examples of Spanish red wines are garnacha, (grenache) tempranillo, and whites that include albariño and verdejo.

To experience Spanish wines, try 2010 Real Campania de Vinos Blanco ($10), 2006 Tinto Figuero Crianza Ribera del Douro ($25) and 2010 Alvaro Palacios Camins del Priorat.

until next time…à votre santé!

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