What are Tapas


At our Terra Alta Bistro, we serve tapas to accompany our Spanish wines. What are tapas, exactly? The definition might be a little more complex than you would think. The most basic way to explain what tapas are is that they are small plates of food, often served with a glass of wine or another beverage.

What the category of tapas includes will typically vary depending on who is serving it. Some tapas kitchens serve only small appetizers, whereas others expand the definition to include salads, flatbreads, and more varied dishes. At Wilhelm Family Vineyards, we use a more broad definition for our tapas [menu].

The Origin of Tapas

Just like you may get different answers when you ask what tapas are, you are likely going to get various responses for how tapas originated. This will depend on who you are talking to. There is not one definitive origin story for this style of food, but there are some likely possibilities.

One explanation is that this style of food originated in taverns as a way to prevent flies from hovering around patrons’ drinks. This was originally accomplished with a saucer. Eventually, bar owners would top these saucers with small savory bites. The name “tapas” comes from the Spanish word tapa, which means “lid” or “cover,” where this style of food was originally served according to this story.

There are a few different tales for the origin of tapas that involve the Spanish King Alfonso X. One is that he stopped in Cádiz, a seaside province. He ordered a glass of sherry at a tavern and the innkeeper brought it with a slice of ham on top to prevent sand from blowing in. King Alfonso allegedly ordered another “with the tapa.” Other stories claim that the king ate small dishes of food during recovery from an illness or that he ordered all bars to serve food with alcohol to prevent drinks from going to the patrons’ heads.

Tapas and Spanish Culture

No matter how they originated, tapas have definitely become a part of Spanish culture. It is common to eat these small dishes during the time between lunch and dinner, which is served later in Spain than it is typically served here in the United States. However, many people will also make a meal out of tapas by ordering multiple plates or by visiting multiple tapas bars. There’s even a word for this in Spanish, tapear.

Where to Find Tapas in Tucson

You don’t have to travel to Spain for delicious tapas. At our Terra Alta Bistro, we serve tapas pairings with our local [Spanish wines]. These savory bites can greatly enhance your tasting experience and you can also enjoy views of the Catalina Mountains from this location in the heart of the Tucson foothills. This is a perfect place to gather with other wine lovers and families are also welcome.

Visit Our Tapas Tasting Room

Come and visit our Tucson tasting room and experience our wonderful menu for yourself. We are open weekly and on weekends.

Call us at (520) 900-7166 to make a reservation at our tapas kitchen.