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Mercado de San Miguel: How to Drink in Madrid

Mercado de San Miguel 2

Mercado de San Miguel 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editors Note: This is a sponsored guide to drinking wine in Madrid by Tesco Wine. We will occasionally publish these when the content is specifically related to Catavino so that we can pay for the great writing that you have come to expect on Catavino.net. Thank you for understanding.

Though known on the tourist trail for its art museums or pumping nightlife (depending on which guidebook is clasped in hand), Madrid also offers up food and drink galore.

At the geographical, political and cultural centre of Spain, Madrid is in a prime location for exploring regional varieties of Spanish wine, as well as the more local specialties of the La Mancha region.

Follow in the footsteps of locals and drink like a Madrileño at Mercado de San Miguel. Open again after a multi-year restoration, the market is a handsome, remodelled building of glass, wood, and iron, and a prime evening destination for the urbanites seeking tapas, vino, and conversation. The market is open until 10pm Monday through Wednesday, and until 2am, Thursday through Sunday.

The market’s self-stated mission includes, among other things, creating a community of vendors who are experts and evangelists of the products they sell, promoting a sensory experience, and reflecting the culinary diversity of Spain. From all measures and experiences, it appears to be working fantastically.

Once inside, the wine bar Pinkleton & Wines comes highly recommended, where the Mercado de San Miguel really shines. The varied cellar and highly knowledgeable (and English-speaking) staff are simply the icing on the cake after their well-curated list of house wines. For around 3€ you can try a glass of any one of several great regional specialties.

While one could splurge up to 10-12€ per glass, the house menu lends itself to cheap and easy exploration for wine enthusiasts and new drinkers alike.

Why not try out a new eating and drink game: Tapas Roulette?

To play, grab some friends and make for the market at tapas time (after 9pm). Find some elbow room, make space in your stomach, pack your sense of adventure, and prepare your tastebuds.

A war of flavour consonance and dissonance is about to play out and the pleasure lies in the discovery of unfamiliar aromas and textures.

Tapas Roulette is simple, but works best with a group. In each round one person buys a round of wine and another some small plates to share (the tapas). Because each person gets to choose independently, you get to experience alternatingly wonderful, jarring, and surprising combinations of wine and food.

When tasting, you can attempt to play by the flavour ‘rules’ and go with the tried and true combinations, or you can play master and commander yourself, mixing and matching food to your glass in hand. Don’t eat everything at once and don’t take it too seriously: it’s meant to be a night of fun and discovery.

To replicate some of the drama of roulette try some or all of these pairings, depending on your tastes and mood:

Cheese & a Young Red from La Mancha

While the French may hold international rights to the concept of “wine and cheese”, a salty Manchego or the slightly more buttery Iberico cheese contrast the fruity and fragrant reds. Alternatively, try a Rueda Verdejo if you’re in the mood for white or a softer, fuller-bodied wine experience.

Paella & an Earthy Tempranillo

Paella, the now famous dish of peasant origins, deserves an equally hearty wine to accompany it on its trip across your palate. Known for their smokiness, Tempranillos sweep up the competition when it comes to agreeing with chorizo and playing off of saffron.

Seafood & Dry Sherry

Though sherry’s reputation as a sweet, after-dinner drink sometimes overshadows it, a dry sherry complements seafood almost too well. Try Manzanilla or Fino – the iodine notes can complement the oiliness of fish while ginger and citrus notes pair well with these flavours since they are so commonly used in preparing seafood. Skip the seafood paella and seek out fresh pulpo (octopus), scallops, or fish.

Dessert & Cava

Chocolate and bubbles. Ripe fruit and a floral bouquet. The possibilities here are really endless. Or skip the dessert and just have Cava!

No matter the flavours, good food and good wine are always a good pairing. Good friends and a good setting are a welcome addition, and they can be found in good supply at Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel.

Jessica Jackson

Amateur wine enthusiast Jessica Jackson is a part-time blogger and vagabond. Based out of California, she spends most of her time travelling, writing, and teaching Marine Biology. When not up to her knees or neck in salt water, though, she enjoys eating and drinking after the Mediterranean fashion. After having explored the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma, Spain, and France (vicariously, through the California-based French bistro where she briefly waitressed), she’s setting her sights on Chile and Australia next.