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TAPAS have become the most popular style of eating and they have come a long way from their home in Spain.

Virtually every style of gastronomy now produces a tapas, and indeed east meets west when Chinese dim sun and tapas intermingle on many menus. But going back to its origins Spanish tapas are very regional, and areas have their own names for their variations on the theme.

Autumn has a propinquity with tapas for it is now that the pigs in many regions of Spain are put into the oak forests where they gorge the acorns, bringing a unique flavour to the meat of the pig, which in time becomes the finest Serrano ham.

The wonderful produce of the pig becomes all forms of charcuterie, and each can match to a suitable wine.

Ham and charcuterie and a Spanish red wine go together naturally. The finest pata negra ham, aged for a long time will court a Gran Reserva Rioja.

A younger cured ham is perhaps better with a Crianza; lighter red wine aged just one year in oak, as opposed to five or more for Gran Reserva.

Spain is a huge wine producing country and the cellars are awash with a surplus. This means they offer amazing value for money at every level.

Rioja is the best known area, but there is a host to explore from areas such as Valencia, Navarra, La Mancha, Leon, Toro, Somantano and Ribera del Duero. The top wines, Gran Reservas, can be a fraction of those of Rioja.

With the autumnal nip in the air some charcuterie and a Spanish wine is a great way to start an evening. Though continental producers dominate the market, its worth looking for some home produced charcuterie.

The Bath Pig make delicious mini Chorizo that are perfect party snacks. Trealy Farm Charcuterie from Monmouthshire is now used by many leading restaurants.

For something different it's worth sampling Elan Valley Mutton Mutton Salami for a real taste of the Welsh hills.

Tapas means literally a top; a piece of bread served on top of the wine glass, topped with some ham or charcuterie.

The original tapas for me is still difficult to better, washed down with great Spanish red wine.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Sep 15, 2012
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