Skip to main content
Desert Island Wines

Spanish Wines to Beat the Heat on a Desert Island

Star chef Katie Button selects three wines for a long, sandy sojourn

Janice Williams By December 3, 2021
photo illustration of Katie Button
Photo illustration by Pix

The premise of Desert Island Wines is this: You’ve just been shipwrecked on a desert island and there’s no rescue in sight. Worse, the only food the ship was carrying was a lifetime supply of canned soup and spaghetti. But when you boarded the ship, you brought along three cases of wine and — luckily! — they have all washed ashore safely. You chose to take one inexpensive wine, one luxury wine, and another wine in between. These are the wines you’ll be drinking until you’re rescued. Which is going to be a loooong time coming. Choose well.

Katie Button can’t imagine a life stuck on a hot desert island. No kitchen? No tapas and pans of paella? No Spanish wine? To even consider such a thing would leave her palate dry and stale with the unfulfilling taste of despair. 

Button is the executive chef and founder of Katie Button Restaurants, including the nationally acclaimed Cúrate Bar de Tapas and La Bodega by Cúrate in Asheville, North Carolina, co-owned with husband, Félix Meana, in addition to the online marketplace, Curate at Home, and Curate Wine Club. Much of Button’s life is spent immersed in the flavors and wonders of good food and wine, and has been since she started her culinary journey while working as a server at José Andrés’ Minibar and Café Atlántico in Washington D.C, the latter of which has closed. Though she graduated with a science degree from Cornell University and obtained her master’s in biomedical engineering in Paris, the creativity and excitement of the kitchen lured her back into hospitality.

“I think becoming a chef was always meant to happen. I grew up in a household with a passion for food and cooking. My mother ran a catering business out of our home kitchen, and I would come downstairs to the bustling sounds of the standing mixer and sweet smells of rosemary rolls in the oven. It just took me a little longer to figure out that’s what I needed to be doing for the rest of my life: cooking, enjoying food, and running restaurants,” says Button. 

Considering her work in hospitality, it’s no wonder that wine has also become a significant force in Button’s life, particularly Spanish wines, which she keeps stocked on her restaurants’ menus and often enjoys sharing over a meal with Meana. 

“I’ve experienced moments where wine has blown my mind. When the pairing and combination with food creates an explosion of flavor that is greater than the sum of its individual parts,” Button says. “I remember tasting a blue cheese with an incredible glass of Royal Tokaji, that was like being transported to another world. Those moments don’t happen often, but when they do, they impact and change you forever.”

Considering a life-changing event as harrowing as being stranded on a desert island, Button has a few ideas on what she’d need to help her adjust to the changes, and it would start with a luxury bottle of bubbles. 

Cooling out with Corpinnat

Surely, a bottle of sparkling wine would help ease the stress of a lifetime stuck on a desert island. Button would choose to spend her days baking under the sun with an “organic, biodynamic sparkling wine with long aging potential,” like Recaredo Reserva Particular Penedès Brut Nature Corpinnat 2008, which retails for about $96 a pop. 

“When I think of expensive things, I think luxury. And nothing is better than bubbles for that. Recaredo Reserva Particular is a bottle that can transport you to a luxury experience for sure,” Button says. “I can imagine sitting on the desert island, trying to make clothes out of palm tree leaves, with a glass of bubbles in my hand, and feeling beautiful, luxurious, and like I had everything in the world right there.” 

Sangria party

Entertaining is a major component of hospitality, and Button relishes creating lively and festive environments for guests. She often uses sangria to get the party started, both at home and in her restaurants. So naturally, she’d need plenty of it if she were all alone on a desert island. It just so happens that Button’s favorite sangria, La Sueca, by Democratic Wines, is inexpensive at just $15 a bottle.

“It’s light, delicious, fruity, thirst-quenching, refreshing, and festive. It’s good times in a bottle and puts a smile on your face no matter how dire the circumstances are,” Button says. 

A reliable crowd-pleaser, Button credits this particular bottle of sangria for sparking the idea for Button and Meana’s Cúrate Spanish Wine Club. The couple enjoyed drinking the juicy wine so much that they decided to start educating others on the delights of Spanish wine through a food and wine pairing club, which guests at the 2021 Food & Wine Classic in Aspen got a preview of during Button and Meana’s joint seminar. 

“We wanted to share with others the joy that reasonably-priced Spanish wines brought to our lives,” Button says. “La Sueca is the go-to value bottle I bring to fun outdoor celebrations, and that’s what I would want my desert island experience to be like — a La Sueca party.”

A taste of the past

The host and star of Magnolia Network’s “From The Source” reality series often enjoys Bodegas Tradición Fino Viejo Tradición Jerez Sherry NV, which retails for about $40, during her downtime at home. Every sip brings back the memories of Button’s humble beginnings exploring Spain as a young chef on the rise, and it would come in handy for those homesick moments.

“It is nutty, refreshing, complex, delicious, and one of my favorite wines in the world,” says Button, who recalls her time visiting the Bodegas Tradición winery many years ago during a trip to Spain with a group of restaurant and wine professionals.

“I remember walking into their incredible space with the sights, sounds, and smells of Vino de Jerez all around; seeing the care and attention they put into each and every wine that they make; learning about how they have saved a lot of the original aging and bottling processes of making sherry wine; and also realizing it was my mission in life to connect and familiarize more people with the incredible complexity of the wines from Jerez,” Button continues. “I fell in love with this wine then and there.”

Managing life on a hot desert island is no piece of cake no matter the circumstances, but good wine that has inspired so many endearing moments in life may help the days pass. 

Democratic Wines La Sueca Spain Sangria ($15)

Made with Garnacha and Tempranillo grapes, this red sangria bursts with juicy fruit flavor. Heavily influenced by natural extracts of orange, lemon, cinnamon, peach, apricot, lime, and other red fruits that spend several weeks in stainless steel tanks mingling with the grapes, the easy-drinking Sangria is refreshing and light. Pro tip: Serve it over a couple of ice cubes.

bottle of Bodegas Tradición Fino Viejo Tradición Jerez Sherry NV

Bodegas Tradición Fino Viejo Tradición Jerez Sherry NV ($40)

Bodegas Tradicíon has been recognized for producing superior Sherry in the Jerez region of Spain since the late 1990s. This Palomino-based wine, which spends an average of eight years aging in American oak barrels, offers plenty of acidity and minerality, with salinity and complexity to boot.

bottle of Recaredo Reserva Particular Penedès Brut Nature Corpinnat 2008

Recaredo Reserva Particular Penedès Brut Nature Corpinnat 2008 ($96)

The Xarel-lo and Macabeo grapes used for this wine come from vines planted between 1950 and 1955. A relatively new category of Spanish sparkling wine — Recaredo is among many small producers who left the Cava D.O. to create their own versions of single-estate sparkling wines — this Corpinnat is completely dry and full of freshness, acidity, and minerality.