Sangria | The Lifeblood of Western Europe

Harry Lambourne
14th August 2021

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to go on a holiday to Western Europe, more specifically Spain and Portugal, then I’m sure you’ve had the opportunity to enjoy the delicious nectar that is Sangria. Sangria is essentially a punch, or wine-based cocktail. It is a wonderful amalgamation of wine, (traditionally red), with chopped fruit and a few other easy to source ingredients.

Sangria may taste best when you’re in the sun without a care in the world, but who says that can’t be in your very own home or garden. In this article we will look at the history behind this delicious concoction. We will also give you a few recipes to try at home and some excellent food to pair with your next glass of Sangria.

The Sangria Story

If you wondered what Sangria means, the direct translation is ‘bloodletting’. Bloodletting is the withdrawal of blood from a patient to prevent illness. Who names these things? Perhaps more accurate, is that it is simply the derivation of ‘sangre’, which translates to blood in Spanish. Blood more accurately captures the rich and deep red we associate with Sangria, without the unfortunate connotations that come with the direct translation.

Sangria Cocktail
The deep red and rightly named Sangria

Sangria is also a drink which has only relatively recently garnered global attention. It first came about when Romans came to the Iberian peninsula. At this point it was a means to fortify unsafe water. There’s turning water to wine for you. It remained a primarily Spanish treat from then, until it took off in the US. More specifically, the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Soon after this, the world began to embrace Sangria with open arms and rightly so.

Now, you have some context, let’s get to the exciting bit – making your own Sangria!

Red Wine Sangria

Now, as we know the name alludes to a deep red colour. So, it is only right to start off by writing about sangria made from red wine. As is often the case, when making the drinks and food of the mainland European nations, there is something to be said for sticking close to tradition. So, here’s our spin on a traditional recipe. So, first things first, the wine. A Rioja red wine is traditional, but there is also something to be said for opting for the Catalonian Montsant. The added acidity of the Montsant will help balance the sweetness of the Sangria. For a deeper look into the similarities and differences between the two styles of Spanish wine – read here!

Montsant Wine Region
The Mountains of Montsant

Beyond the wine, you have to consider fruit and spices. Some recipes call for brandy for the brave amongst you but we will go without, (for this recipe at least). For the fruit and fruit juice components only go fresh. Oranges and apples are great places to start. Sugar can then be added if you want things a bit sweeter but this final bit is really personal preference.

Full Recipe for a Red Wine Sangria:
  • 750ml bottle of Spanish Red Wine (Rioja or Montsant)
  • 2 tbsp of white sugar
  • 200ml of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 oranges (cut into wedges with the skin on)
  • 2 apples (diced and cored with the skin on)
  • Ice (large ice cubes are recommended here so they don’t melt as quickly)

Simply pour the fresh orange juice into a carafe. Add the cut fruit and cubes of ice. Then pour the red wine over the mixture. Stir the mixture slowly with a knife and then taste with a table spoon. If you think it needs to be sweetened slightly then dissolve the sugar in the mixture. – Then enjoy!

Cava Sangria

Red wine sangria may seem familiar to you. Perhaps it might not call out as the most refreshing of drinks on a hot day. Enter ‘Cava Sangria’ and with Cava Sangria there really is just one way to do it. We take our recipe straight from the bustling metropolitan of Barcelona.

Picture this – it’s 30 degrees and the sun is setting and you find yourself on a small table gazing out into the deep and dark Balearic Sea. There is only one drink you should reach for and that’s ‘Sangria de Cava’. Let’s flip the scenario and it’s first thing in the morning and you’re having breakfast about to take on the Sagrada la Familia and the Gothic Quarter. There is only one drink you should reach for and that’s ‘Sangria de Cava’.

My point is that this really is a drink that’s great for all times and all places. Luckily for us, this Catalonia staple is also very easy to recreate.

Sangria Cava
Catalonia’s Answer to Sangria
Full Recipe for Sangria de Cava:
  • 750ml bottle of Spanish Cava (Rose Cava is also a great option here if you’re looking to mix it up)
  • 50ml Orange Liqueur (I would recommend Grand Marnier for that classic brandy hit)
  • 2 tbsp of sugar
  • 400ml of freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 100ml of freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • Fresh strawberries and/or peaches
  • Ice (large ice cubes are recommended here so they don’t melt as quickly)

Simply pour the fresh orange and lemon juice into a carafe. Add the strawberries / peaches and liqueur. Drop in the ice cubes and pour in the Cava. Give it is quick stir and taste with a spoon. If it needs sweetening then stir in the sugar. Enjoy!

Food Pairings For Sangria

The recipes for making delicious sangria are now all yours, all that’s left is to pair Sangria with some delicious food. We will first pick some perfect accoutrements to the red wine, before doing the same for the cava option.

It will come as no surprise that my recommendations for the traditional red wine sangria are some traditional tapas nibbles. Rich flavours are what we want, so red meats and cheese are going to feature heavily. Jamón Ibérico is the top recommendation here. Famously seen as a rather striking whole pig leg, but available in smaller sliced portions. Another fantastic option is the classic Spanish chorizo, which can be sauteed in red wine. These two rich red meats, paired with some Manchego cheese is all that you need to pick at, while you enjoy a jug of fresh sangria.

A large leg of Jamón
A large leg of Jamón – perfect with some red wine sangria

We have a savoury option for the above, now it’s time for something sweet. Pairing a dessert with a cava sangria works well. The sweetness of the dessert balances out the added tartness and acidity of the cava. As Cava de Sangria is as Catalonian as it gets, what better dessert is there than Crema Catalana. The Spanish equivalent of a Creme Brûlée. This rich and creamy dessert has the classic crisp topping with strong undertones of citrus and cinnamon.

Creamy Crema Catalana
Creamy Crema Catalana

There you have it, the perfect route to authentic Sangria at home. Don’t deprive yourself of this delicious drink just because you’re not out for Tapas or on your holidays. Enjoy it all year round – you won’t regret it! If you are interested in making some other wine based cocktails at home then take a look at our easy Prosecco Cocktail recipes here.

Join our mailing list to get exclusive access to our weekly wine offers

20 mixed cases of wine a week on sale at cellar door prices