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The skinny on the art of making sangria

From quenching your thirst in the sweltering heat to being a community drink consumed during festivals, sangria has come a long way. As India gets its first ready-to-drink bottled version, Phorum Dalal traces the beverage’s origin to Spain in the 15th century

Picture this: A wise grandmother leans over the kitchen table in a house in Spain. She empties a few bottles of red wine into a big bowl, adds a generous dose of brandy and triple sec, and gives it a good stir. On a wooden chopping board, she finely cuts apples and oranges into bite-sized pieces and soaks them in brandy for 10 minutes to ensure they retain their crunchiness. To uplift the taste, she adds a spoonful of mixed spices — cinnamon and cloves. She pours herself a glass and takes a swig. Satisfied, she carries it outside for her thirsty family members. This was how Sangria was first made in 15th century Spain. It was initially consumed to beat the heat but later turned into a community drink during festivals.

Sangria

“Sangria doesn’t have a single recipe. It could well have been a hand-me-down grandmother’s recipe. You never make just one glass of sangria. It is always made in a pitcher or a big bowl. While there is hieroglyphic proof that the Egyptian pharaohs enjoyed a glass of wine in the 14th century, the drink earned the status of a party swig in 1964 when it first became popular in the US,” says Shishir Rane, group head (beverage and brand experience) at Impresario Entertainment and Hospitability Pvt Ltd.

Recipe by Chef Kshama Prabhu of The White Owl Brewery & Bistro
Recipe by Chef Kshama Prabhu of The White Owl Brewery & Bistro 

In Spanish and Portuguese, ‘sangria’ means bloodletting as initially it was made using only red wine and had a dark colour. Sparkling wine from Spain is called Cava, which can be used to make a great sparkling wine sangria.

Sangria in a bottle
Last month, Ashwin Deo, founder of Trinity Vinters Pvt Ltd, launched ready-to-drink Turning Point Sangrias bottled in 330 ml pints — Metropolitan (a take on Cosmopolitan with cranberry and orange) and Nashik Mule (orange and ginger ale). Priced at R135 per bottle, the first one is a white wine sangria, which is citrusy, fruity and light on the palate. The latter, red wine sangria, is spiced with cloves and cardamom. “You don’t need to be a wine connoisseur to drink wine. Our latest product targets young consumers who want to have a fun drink and unwind. I don’t believe in the concept of wine and food, I believe in the concept of wine and mood,” says Deo, adding that gone are the days when people ordered pitchers of only beer and mojito.

All you need
To make good sangria, you need three things: the base wine, fruits and the sweetener. “The fresh fruits are either chopped fresh to maintain their crunchiness or macerated, whereby they are soaked in brandy overnight. Through this process, they no longer remain crunchy but their flavours burst in your mouth,” explains Rane.

Modern world sangria
Thanks to contemporary mixologists, the sangria has underdone fortification — which means addition of alcohol. “Triple sec, which is an orange-flavoured liquer, can be replaced with cointreau, or gin can be added to a white wine sangria to give it a more powerful kick,” says Rane.

While wine became popular in India only a decade ago, sangria, in a broader sense, is a substitute for wine. While there are a handful of serious wine drinkers in Mumbai, sangria plays an important role in making the grape drink well accepted. “When it comes to Indian food, we don’t have courses. We like to eat all our food together, unlike the Europeans and the French who eat portion-sized food and like to sip a glass of wine with each. In European culture, people eat a lot first and then they drink a lot,” says Rane.

Nikhil Agarwal, a trained Sommelier and founder of All Things Nice (ATN) that promotes wines and spirits in India, attributes sangria’s popularity to many factors. “While the Romans planted vineyards first, and Europe drank more wine than water, as they didn’t have means to purify it, tourists in Spain took this community drink across the world. Sangria is popular in India as it’s easy to make, fun to drink and many variations are available,” he says.

Dictateur
Ingredients

>> 750ml red wine
>> 60ml Triple Sec
>> 250 gm fresh red apple chunks
>> 250 gm fresh orange wedges
>> 250 gm fresh pear cubes

Method
>> Mix all the ingredients together in a pitcher and refrigerate for 24 hours

Fruit pairing
If a wine is already sweet, its taste can be lifted with spices, but if a wine is spicy and woody, the acidity can be balanced with sweet fruits. Some combinations are given below:
>> Bananas go well with Sauvignon blanc
>> Apples go well with Chardonnay/Zinfandel
>> Pears and peaches go best with Chardonnay
>> Strawberries and berries with champagne are a match made in heaven

Did you know?
European Union (EU) in 2014 passed a rule that allows only sangria made in Spain and Portugal to be sold under that name after the Parliament green-lighted new wine labelling rules. Just as whiskey made in Scotland can be called scotch, the EU passed a regulation that only sangria made in Spain and Portugal can be imported into its countries. 

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