Fruit, sugar, water and wine — the basic ingredients of sangria — can be concocted in myriad ways.
First, the choice of fruit is endless. Use citrus and your sangria will take on the freshly bittersweet tones of lemon and lime. Go with stone fruit like white peach and it will take on sweeter flavors. Use a better wine and you'll be better off, elevating sangria to something more sophisticated than simply grown-up fruit punch.
Sangria has been around since Roman times, when fruit juice was mixed into rustic Spanish wines to help offset their coarseness and provide a drink that was both refreshing and intoxicating.
In Spain, sangria remains an important drink, especially as the weather gets warm, and it is sometimes blended with club soda or champagne to give it an exhilaratingly effervescent kick.
Penny Gadd-Coster considers herself a Spainophile. Gadd-Coster, winemaker at Rack & Riddle in Hopland and former winemaker at J Vineyards and Winery, is currently making Eppa SupraFruta Sangria, a bottled sangria made from either red or white wine grapes sourced organically in Mendocino County.
"Most of the sangria that's in a bottle out there is not a premium product and is pretty sweet," she said. "This is not overly sweet, it's a wine-lover's sangria. We really focused on the wine; it's meant to be drunk with your friends, not just to swill down."
To make Eppa, Gadd-Coster combines cabernet sauvignon, blended with a touch of syrah, with a base of fruit juice concocted from pomegranate, acai, blueberry, blood orange and lemon, all grown organically. The white sangria is produced with chardonnay and a fruit juice blend of mangosteen, white peach, mango and a little blood orange.
"It's sunshine in a glass," she noted. "Drinking it, you feel like you're in the Mediterranean."
After blending, the sangria sits in stainless steel tanks for two to three weeks before bottling.
"We're looking for the essence of the wine and making sure the wine stands out," Gadd-Coster noted, explaining why, for example, she would never use oak to age sangria.
A longtime home sangria maker, Gadd-Coster has always liked the drink for its fresh and fruity characteristics, finding it the perfect adult refreshment in spring and summer.
"It goes with everything," she adds. "It's fun and sparkly."
The owner of not one but two paella pans, she enjoys sangria with paella, a classic matching, but also suggests sangria be paired with shellfish, tortillas and potatoes, as well as Louisiana barbecued shrimp dusted with smoked paprika. Sangria's fruity acidity also helps it cut through fatty and rich dishes like a paella swathed in fried egg.
At under 9 percent alcohol by volume, compared with many wines' average of 13 to 15 percent, sangria is also a light and easy cocktail on its own, sprinkled with club soda or a couple cubes of ice.
It's also versatile enough to give mixologists something to have fun with. Spoonbar in Healdsburg, for example, just this month added a Ros?Sangria to its drinks menu. A combination of ros?wine, pisco, pineapple, elderflower and citrus peels, the lovely new sangria is served on tap at $9 a glass.
Recipes courtesy Penny Gadd-Coster; each serves 1
Girl from Eppa-nema Sangria
Makes 1 serving
? ounce fresh lime juice