Pass the Sangria

Sangria, the drink that has come to be synonymous with Spanish wine, has long been misunderstood. To associate sangria with Spanish wine drinking is comparable to saying the Greeks only drink ouzo or the French pastis. The most common drink beloved by the Spaniards is a cana, or a four ounce beer, served in a small glass, ice cold from the keg, and consumed rapidly, almost like a shot. It is a little known fact that most Spaniards consume sangria during the summer and only in certain parts of Spain. Otherwise, the drink of choice is a red wine, whatever the region has to offer.

The quality of such Spanish winemaking has evolved exponentially, especially in the last twenty years, with otherwise unknown regions such as Jumilla, Montsant, Navarra, Penedes, Yecla, Toro and Bierzo emerging as fine examples of Spanish craftsmanship.

Sangria exhibits versatility, because it is a red wine that acts like a cold white, satisfying both desires. But no comparison can be made to a wine of real craft and value. Sangria is made with jug wine, sugar and soda. It is often too sweet a match for good food, and is the source of many a hangover with its deliberate sweetness. As the winter months approach it is time to sample what Spain has to offer. Have a conversation with the wine director or chef about what is available according to your palate. You will be justly rewarded and perhaps pleasantly surprised.

If you are looking for world class wines with dinner, vintage charts are important. For example, 1994 was an excellent year for Rioja, 2001 for Navarra etc. Spanish wines can age like red burgundies, great aromas, light-bodied, but intensely flavored. Just try a 1994 Miguel Merino Reserva if you need proof, for example.

For those of you who are still holding on to Sangria flavors, check out my recipe that I have developed over the years, having stayed in Spain and consulted with many an unofficial aficionado. Otherwise drink Spanish wine! Viva Espana! Ole!

SANGRIA

By Chef Mateo

1.5 litre tempranillo
128 oz. pitcher
juice of 3 oranges
½ bottle cava
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup Spanish brandy
Juice of 2 limes
4 cups of ice
1 sliced apple
20 oz. club soda
1 sliced pear
½ cup sugar
1 sliced peach
pinch of nutmeg
3 cinnamon sticks

Add ingredients to pitcher.
Then add ice. Stir well.
Cover and let rest in fridge for 8 hours.
Serve chilled.