Sangria was part of my life growing up, and I polished off many bottles of Spanada, one of a long line of fruit and wine blends introduced by E.&J. Gallo. It was first released in 1970, a time when the country’s palate was changing from dessert to table wines. I spent many evenings sipping Spanada over dinners with paramours. This inevitably led to romance, and I thanked Gallo many times for that.
Spanada is but a distant memory, but sangria, is on its way back. In “Wine Spectator” recently, Peter Deutsch, CEO of importer Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits, said “We think sangria is the next big thing in wine.” According to “Impact Databank,” the four leading sangria brands grew 43 percent in the United States between 2010 and 2013.
This growth is driven by consumer interest in slightly sweet wines, and the millennial population that values it as a party drink. Women like it because of its low alcohol (6 to 8.5 percent), and its purported health benefits from increased antioxidant content. It’s also cheap, usually between $8 and $13 a bottle.
The European Union passed a regulation this year that states that bottled sangria must come from Spain or Portugal, but so far American producers are ignoring that verdict. The primary sellers of sangria are retailers, with most restaurants concocting their own versions.
Sangria is exceedingly easy to make at home and there is no set recipe. Simply combine white wine (chenin blanc, Riesling, pinot gris) or red wine (garnacha, merlot, tempranillo) with sliced fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, apples, and peaches, and sometimes melon balls, berries, sugar, herbs, sparkling water or soda, and brandy or triple sec.
I would rather make my own, but I did taste a few recently, including the No. 3 brand, Lolailo from Spain, and a popular domestic one called Eppa. Lolailo Red Sangria ($8 for 1.5-liter bottle) contains 16 grams of sugar per 8 ounces (160 calories) and is simply too sweet for my taste. I much prefer the Eppa SupraFruta Sangria ($10 for 750 ml bottle), in both the white and red versions. The Eppa sangrias contain organically grown grapes from Mendocino County combined with real, certified organic fruit juices. The producer claims that these wines contain twice the antioxidants of a glass of red wine. There is no additional sugar listed as an ingredient, and the wines does not taste overly sweet.
Sangria is the perfect summer refresher at a time when fresh fruit is in abundance. Fine on its own over ice, the sweet flavors of sangria contrast nicely with Marcona almonds with smoked paprika, spicy enchiladas or tortas, charred vegetables, grilled steaks and brat sausages, or pulled-pork sandwiches with spicy barbecue sauce.