We love Sangria so much, and not just in summertime. In fact, we may love Sangria a bit too much—so desperate to mix the stuff up, we’ll sometimes grab one of those giant bottles of low-quality, factory produced wines. Pretty much anything red and low-cost that we can mix with the pile of fruit we just bought and drink shamelessly before 5pm.
Truth is, even though Sangria is fair game for day-drinking, and an incredibly easy recipe, it should still be made with some care and with quality wine. But finding that wine isn’t always easy, since “value” won’t always equate with Sangria quality, and vice versa.
So, what are you looking for in a Sangria wine? That question is almost better answered in reverse. What aren’t you looking for? Number one, avoid big tannins, like the kind you’d find in a Left Bank, Cabernet-heavy Bordeaux. But it isn’t just tannin you’ll want to avoid; too much weight in your red wine and the Sangria will be overpoweringly heavy, even if you cut it heavily with a mixer, meaning you’d also want to avoid Right Bank, Merlot-heavy Bordeaux. (Plus, yeah, Napa Cab and other expensive Merlots; we’re just into our recent Bordeaux article.)
The other end of the spectrum has some problems, too. Pinot Noir and Gamay aren’t especially rich or tannic, but they have a lot of acidity, and since you’ll probably be adding fruit and more acid to your Sangria, you’ll want to keep things balanced. Then there are wines like Cabernet Franc and Carménère that have pronounced “green” or “bell pepper” flavors, and mushroomy wines like Nebbiolo, where savory notes are so pronounced they’ll clash with your fruity flavor profile. Unless, of course, you’re making some freaky new kind of Sangria, in which case, Godspeed.
Don’t worry, though, there’s plenty of good wine left to choose from, most of it for around $15 and a bunch of it, not surprisingly, from Spain.
This one hits the middle of the road nicely, not too light or heavy, with good juicy fruit and maybe a hint of fresh mint that’ll add to the overall refreshment factor. The vines are actually quite old (100 years or so), but because the wine is designated “joven,” or young, that means there’s no oak aging, so you get structure without heavy oak.
This one does get some time (just under two years) in fine French oak, but you still won’t pour out anything heavy-handed. Old vines give rich but pliable fruit, raspberry and cherry stones plus a bit of minerality. This’ll work pretty well with darker-end spectrum Sangrias (think crushed blackberries, some fresh mint, pomegranate.)
Not every Sangria is created equal, and some might actually benefit from the ever-so-slightly more substantial spice and leather from a wine like this. Not that it’s all masculine stereotypes: big plump blueberries and dark cherries are the main event, which you can brighten up with a bit of citrus and stretch out with a quality, nice pink lemonade soda.
A classic Rhône Valley blend of Grenache (same thing as Garnacha), Syrah, and Mourvedre, aka “GSM,” except this one’s made in California. Plenty of fresh berries, with a subtle hit of florals and a dash of pink peppercorn. Mostly, though, you’ll get flavors of juicy berries and cherry, while that pepper could absolutely help to further perk-ify your Sangria.
Don’t worry, not a whole new grape variety to learn. Primitivo is the same thing we call Zinfandel, and while you could be totally fine pairing this $20 bottle with dinner, it has enough smooth tannin and fresh blackberry notes to make a nice big pitcher of late-summer Sangria. Which, theoretically, you will share (we won’t tell).
A little bit more baking spice with some thick raspberry jam that still isn’t too heavy for Sangria. Delicate tannins integrate into the whole bushel of fruit you’ll get (more blueberries, some red cherry, and cassis). Oh, and the bottle’s a ridiculous value. A Sangria dream come true.
It’s $20, but you get a full liter of award-winning Italian-based red wine made in California. Plus, yeah, the thrill of using your fridge magnet churchkey on a bottle of wine. It’s steel-tank fermented and low- alcohol, so you get a very fresh, spunky wine full of cherries and red fruit that’s really easy to gulp on its own but would make great friends with some fresh fruit in your Sangria.