It’s summertime, and in Spain that means it’s Sangria time.
Actually, the residents of Spain enjoy Sangria all year-round. And why not? It’s fun to drink, and because it can be paired with a wide array of foods — which just happens to be the definition of Spanish tapas — it’s also quite useful, for lack of a better word.
Perhaps surprisingly, there is no universal “recipe” for Sangria. There isn’t even a regional style. It’s almost as if each restaurant or bar owner makes up his or her own recipe.
Often, Sangria made with red wine is sweeter. Sangria made with white wine, on the other hand, tends to be more refreshing.
Don’t bother asking how Sangria is made when visiting a tapas bar in Spain. A few years ago, during a visit to Barcelona, we asked our server what kind of wine they used. She replied with a sly grin, “Secret recipe.”
But from our seats at the bar, we could see that the “secret,” at least in part, was the use of a flavored soft drink made by Fanta. That was mixed with some kind of wine, and then a few slices of fruit and cubes of ice were added to the glass.
And just like that… Sangria!
It may not have been gourmet or traditional or even what others in Spain would call Sangria, but you know what? It was delicious. And it paired nicely with virtually every “small bite” placed before us.
What we learned that evening is that Sangria is one of those beverages that we needn’t over-think; we should simply enjoy it for what it is.
We’ve tried to duplicate the Sangria we had in Barcelona several times in the ensuing years, and have found that fruity wines work the best.
Among reds, we’ve had good luck with Garnacha (a.k.a. Grenache), Tempranillo and Malbec. Among whites, we recommend dry Riesling, Pinot Gris, Viognier and Vinho Verde, all of which have yielded some tasty drinks.
If you’d like some bubbles in your Sangria, they need not come exclusively from the flavored soft drink you choose. Try sparkling wines from France (from outside the Champagne region, typically referred to as Cremant), Italy (known as Prosecco) or, of course, Spain (known as Cava).
One more thing for newcomers to Sangria: It’s perfectly okay to sip this fun beverage with a straw… in the summertime, or anytime.