The Best Wines for Sangria and How to Make It
As the weather gets warmer, happy hour drinks will get cooler—and as we approach spring, many folks are interested in swapping out their hot toddy for a refreshing glass of sangria. Below, we asked two wine experts for their take on all things sangria.
What Is Sangria and How Do You Make It?
Sangria, in its most basic form, is a wine punch. "This beverage has been enjoyed for hundreds of years and has gone through many adaptations," explains Kara Flaherty, Beverage Director for Take Root Hospitality (the restaurant group behind Vicia and Winslow's Table) in St. Louis, Missouri. "It was introduced to the United States at the World's Fair in New York."
Wines You Shouldn't Use to Make Sangria
It's best to avoid using your expensive, high-end bottles of wine when making sangria, unless you have a bottle that's been open for a few days and won't be palatable on its own. "Remember, you are adding sugar, juices, fruit, and brandy, so using really nice wine is kind of a waste," explains Flaherty. "Just like a mimosa, don't use the good Champagne." Also, it's best to avoid really dry, tannic reds and buttery, oaky whites when making sangria at home.
Because there are really no set traditions around sangria, how you decorate your drink is really up to you. "The base should consist of a bottle of wine, a few pieces of your favorite fruit chopped up, 1/4 to 1/2 cup liquor (brandy being the favorite), depending on how strong you want it, and 1/2 cup of juice or a few tablespoons of sugar for sweetener," explains Flaherty. "For a lighter afternoon sip, feel free to skip the brandy."
Best Wines for Sangria
When shopping for a great wine for sangria, you want to choose one that's more fruit-driven and has a lighter style. "Try not to choose heavy wines with big tannins and a sky-high alcohol percentage," explains Margot Mazur, wine writer at The Fizz. "The astringency of tannin heavy wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Nebbiolo can clash with the fruity elements of the sangria." Instead, Mazur suggests choosing a light red wine with low tannin, like a Gamay, Zinfandel, or Garnacha.
"I like the Broc Love Red for my sangria," says Mazur. "It's an excellent mix of fun bright fruit with a little edge that brings the whole beverage together. Delicious!"
Favorite Sparkling: Tapiz Sparkling Torrontes from Mendoza, Argentina
"For roughly $15 a bottle, this wine is amazing," explains Flaherty. "Torrontes is known for its floral character, and you can garnish this with peaches and pears or go tropical with some pineapple and mango." Flaherty loves using sparkling wine for a white sangria because bubbles make everything better.
Favorite Rosé: Una Lou Rose of Pinot Noir from Carneros, California
This wine has bright acidity while still offering soft red fruit notes. "If you are not a fan of citrus, rosé is a great wine for sangria," explains Flaherty. "You can use fresh strawberries, raspberries, and watermelon as your garnish and fruit profile." To avoid citrus, you can use a few tablespoons of sugar for sweetener, instead of juice.
"This is a different style of Tempranillo because it goes through carbonic maceration, but skipping the science, it results in a fruitier, fresher, lively wine," explains Flaherty. "With this wine, you can go with what is considered a more traditional sangria with your pears, apples, and citrus."