Sangria – For the Shear Fun of It

What some folks think Sangria is.
What some folks think Sangria is.

The photo to the left is what some folks think Sangria is all about – an elegant wine punch for parties made from a ruby red wine slightly sweetened with a nice brandy and loaded with all manner of citrus and other fruits.

Now, when Anne read the admonishment that you really should use a good wine for your base, she sniggered. Somebody obviously had his snob on. Sangria is basically a wine punch that originated in Spain. Nobody knows who invented it, mostly because the practice of adding fruit, sugar, spices and other flavorings to wine has been around for millenia. The reason that Spain became associated with sangria, specifically, is probably because Spain is one of the world’s top 10 citrus-producing nations in the world, and lemons, limes and oranges are the primary elements of sangria.

But, see, here’s the thing about wine punches. They were probably invented when some wine steward noticed that My Lord’s wine had gone a bit off and rather than loose one’s position or even head over it, said steward tossed in some fruit, honey or sugar, watered it back a bit, and voila, something new and yummy. And given that folks didn’t really have a lot of the science and tools that we have now, we’re guessing that bad wine was a lot more common.

So sangria has probably always been about making the best of a bad situation, and we’re seriously cool with that. You see, when Michael first starting making wine at home, some of his efforts were, well, less than good. They weren’t horrible, but they weren’t all that great, either. Even now that Michael’s wine is getting really, really good, when something goes off with this batch or that, we’re not thrilled, but we are consoled by the knowledge that we have plenty of sangria in the offing. Bad wine makes great sangria.

And why shouldn’t it? First up, all that lemon, lime and orange juice makes for some pretty strong flavors. Then there’s the sugar and water that you add. With all those extra flavors, if you’re using a bottle that cost you more than $5 to make sangria, you’re wasting your money. You’re not going to catch the different flavors of the wine – it’s all covered up by the fruit and sugar, and brandy, if you add the latter.

So while sangria can be an elegant way to stretch the wine budget for your party, we think it’s all about the picture at the right – basic, cold and delicious. And because it’s watered down (we don’t add brandy), it’s not as alcoholic, either. This is a Good Thing.

What we think sangria is
What we think sangria is

Our sangria recipe is pretty basic and can be varied according to taste. Slice up a lemon, a lime and an orange or two and put that  into a pitcher that can hold a couple liters or quarts. Pour a bottle of wine (red or white – most sangria is made from red wine, but white works, too) over the fruit, add half again as much water, then some simple syrup (or sugar water that has been boiled down to make it syrupy – you can use straight up sugar, but simple syrup mixes better). Chill or just serve over a glass filled with ice. You can vary the fruit and even leave it in the pitcher for a few days and re-charge with more wine, if you like. Only be aware that after more than five or six days, the peels on the citrus can make the whole thing rather bitter, so taste first before recharging.

Have fun with your sangria. Try different fruits with your citrus. Try different wines. But don’t stress because while it can be dressed up, it’s also a great thing to have in the fridge after a long hard day at work.

Please tell us what you think.

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