The secrets of Sangria



Once upon a time in Spain, a creative party planner mixed some spicy red wine with fresh fruit and a pinch of spice and, ¡eso,! Sangria.

A great basic Sangria is a classic, so our wine is Garnacha because it’s from Spain and because it’s almost always a dry wine with bright fruit and spice — the backbone of real Sangria. Evodia is a widely available version that rocks.

Next up is fresh fruit, starting with citrus. For red Sangria stay on the orange side of the street with slices of orange and tangerine and be sure to include the peel to get the zest. Next up are cherries and berries that bring more flavors and the skins bring more color and some tannin structure. Stop here because most other fruits clash with and muddle red Sangria. Also select only barely ripe fruit because this retains the freshness essential to true Sangria.

Now, for the spices, we’ll go fresh and pungent: ginger, nutmeg and star anise work well. Use restraint to avoid overpowering the elixir.

Other Spanish reds that rock are young Monastrells, Mencias and Tempranillos.

If you are going white, the fresh fruit palate changes to more yellow and green citrus, as well as peaches, apricots and apples.

More recently those prone to sacrilege have used white wine and you can’t go wrong with a Spanish Rueda, Viura and Cava. If you are going white, the fresh fruit palate changes to more yellow and green citrus, as well as peaches, apricots and apples. Avoid the spices with white Sangrias because you will bury the fruit and wine.

If you want to add a spirit, stick with brandies, not sugary liqueurs. Remember, less is more. For bubbles, you can use Cava as a base and add your favorite sparkling water.

Last but not least is serving temperature. With logic as our guide, we’ll go chilled in summer and warm in winter. Winter Sangrias can also benefit from cookie spices such as a good pumpkin pie spice mix.

You could find wines from these grapes from other regions, but don’t since the Spanish versions are great bargains and have the authentic tongue-dancing characteristics we want for Sangria. Same thing for pre-made Sangrias — don’t.

All this Spanish wine, fruit, spice and spirit just scream for a party — a Sangria party. Just as with a taco party, there is more fun to be had by creating a Sangria bar. Start with white and red wine options, throw in a bottle of sparkling water or wine, a variety of fruits, sweet tangy spices and maybe even some brandy. Now let the guests create and you’ve got a fiesta de Sangria. ¡Ole!

Lou Phillips

Lou is a Level 3 Sommelier based on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, who loves traveling the wine world doing research for his writing. He also consults for collectors and businesses buying and selling fine wine and creating special events.