Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

Hello Prince Albert! After a brief hiatus to reflect and recharge my spiritual wine energies, I am back this week to talk about a deliciously fruity style of wine known as Sangria! If you’ve ever contemplated trying Sangria but don’t know where to start, this is the perfect place!

What is Sangria? The term Sangria or Sangrial (translated as bloodletting) first started to appear around the 18th century and originated in Spain and Portugal. This mixed wine drink or “punch” if you will, made its USA debut at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 and since then, North America has enjoyed this fruity beverage on hot days and while on Summer vacations. The drink known as “Sangria” was/is traditionally made by blending red wine with chopped fruits, spices and often uses a fortifying spirit of some kind to boost the alcohol content. Think of it like a mulled or spiced wine but served chilled with an emphasis on fresh, fruity flavors.

Even though Sangria is traditionally made with red wine, a plethora of styles have emerged throughout the years made with a variety of base ingredients including red wine, white wine, rose, sparkling wines (Prosecco, Lambrusco or Cava), and even obscure beverages like hard cider or Sake. There are several brands available for purchase which often feature either red or white wine blended with a mixture of different flavors and fruits. Girl’s Night Out is an extremely popular choice and the white usually outsells the red while the Carlo Rossi brand is another affordable option which focuses on sweet, red wine.

While buying a pre-made Sangria is a fantastic and easy method of trying this style of drink, consider making your own by letting your imagination run wild. Start with a base wine (either red or white) and add chopped fruits like oranges, limes, lemons, pomelo, grapefruit, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, pomegranate, cherries, grapes, pineapples, watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, pears or apples.

To add some spice and depth, try star anise, cloves, basil, rosemary, thyme or cinnamon sticks. Like a good cocktail, simple syrup does wonders here as well, and you can easily infuse your syrup by cooking in some of these ingredients or essences. To inject a bit of kick to your Sangria, Brandy is the traditional spirit to add a velvety weight and luxurious flavor of apricots and buttery spice, but you can easily experiment by adding your own liquors or liqueurs into the blend.

Another factor to consider when making your own Sangria is the desired sweetness level of the drink. Many of the pre-made brands will be quite sweet so I recommend only adding ingredients with natural sugar like fresh fruit. If the blend becomes too sweet, try diluting it slightly with the addition of sparkling drinks like soda water, seltzer and ginger ale or get crazy and mix in some kombucha for that extra tangy flavor.   

Sangria is so easy to drink on its own, but it also pairs wonderfully with all types of snacks like charcuterie plates and foods cooked on the grill. Fruits like strawberries, raspberries, pineapple, watermelon, grapes and cherries are perfect options to match the sweetness while salty options like cured Genoa, Cervelat, Soprosetta, Proscuitto salamis aid in countering the sugary flavors of Sangria.

I really enjoyed tasting both wines from Lolea but especially liked the white version which tasted amazing with strawberries and watermelon. The red tended to overwhelm the lighter fruits but was delicious with salami. Here are my wine picks of the week!      

Lolea No.1 Red Sangria Frizzante: (Catalunya, Spain). Sweet effervescent red with a deep ruby appearance and no visible fizz/bubbles. The nose has some fruity intensity with tangy red fruits (strawberry, raspberry and cherry) with an undertone of mineral. On the palate, this red sangria is immediately sweet, tangy and fruity with high intensity. The wine is medium-bodied with medium acidity however, the wine has a heightened sense of buzz or acidity due to the effervescence which lends a tingling sensation to the overall flavor. Flavors are simple with sweet red fruits and plenty of intensity from the medium-plus concentration. Tannins are non-existent and hints of lemon and lime peel appear on the quick finish. While this was enjoyable enough, it did remind me a bit of red Kool-Aid as the wine is quite out of balance and overly sweet for my personal tastes. Despite these facts, the wine is tasty with cured salami and mature cheddars. I would prefer to blend this wine next time and make my own Sangria mix. I would have liked to have scored this higher, but the wine misses the mark in several ways. Average. $20, 7% ABV

Lolea No.2 White Sangria Frizzante: (Catalunya, Spain). Sweet effervescent white with a medium-lemon appearance and no visible fizz. Fruity scents pop from the glass with high-intensity apples, pears, oranges, white grapes, strawberries and ginger stem. The sensation of fruit-flavored ginger ale is the first thing that jumps out on the flavor profile quickly followed by a fruity midpalate of stone fruits and citrus (pears, oranges, lemon, lime, apples). While the fizz is not visible, you can feel it as a texture in the mouth almost like a tingling minerality which lends freshness. Medium acidity adds just enough zip while the concentration of fruit is high. The finish is medium with a lovely note of lemon/honey/ginger candy sticking to the tongue. This frizzante pairs exceptionally with all types of fruit such as melon, strawberries/raspberries and salty snacks like Cheezies, Triscuits or meats like Genoa salami or Proscuitto. I highly recommend trying a melon ball wrapped in Proscuitto to experience the combination of salty meat and sweet tropical fruit. When tasted together with the wine, it creates a harmonious flavor. The wine is slightly out of balance, but I enjoyed the white more than the red and would try it again by itself. Good! $20, 7% ABV      

Cheers and thanks for reading!