A vibrant blend of good wine and fresh fruit, warmed with a hit of liquor, sangria is the ultimate summer punch. Now enjoyed all over the world, this classic pitcher drink originates from Spain and Portugal, where it is traditionally made using red wine.
If you’re looking for a fun, fruity summer drink, sangria is easy to make and fun to share with friends. Use our simple recipe for red sangria as a guide, but feel free to experiment with different fruit according to what you like and what’s in season. If you can, prepare your sangria a day ahead to give the flavours time to mix together.
But to really take your sangria to the next level, it’s important to choose the right wine. Good red wine should be the star ingredient of your sangria, and with a little bit of knowhow, you can find the perfect bottle.
The best red wines for making sangria are fruity, medium-bodied wines. Avoid wines with high tannins, as these add an astringent flavour that detracts from the vibrant juiciness of the fruit. Above all, pick a wine you wouldn’t mind drinking by itself. There’s only so much you can hide with fruit and spices, and a wine that can stand alone really makes all the difference. And if you have any left, why not try one of these other wine-based recipes?
Best Red Wines for Sangria
Grown throughout Spain, and also in Southern France, where it is called ‘Grenache’, Garnacha is everyone’s favourite sangria red. Rich with black cherry, spicy plum and summer berries, and warmed by notes of cinnamon and star anise, our top pick makes an irresistibly vibrant Sangria, bursting with ripe, bold fruit flavours. It has low acidity and tannin levels, too, which means no bitter aftertaste. Our favourites are Bodegas Borsao from Tres Picos, or Familia Bastida Cimal Garnacha
Tempanillo is Spain’s most popular red wine grape, and is often surprisingly inexpensive. It is a fruity, well-balanced wine, with notes of black cherries, blackberries, and cola. It also has a distinctive, deep red colour, lush texture and medium tannins. Choose a younger tempranillo, labelled ‘Crianza’ or ‘Joven’ for a fruitier, less oaked flavour. We like Palacios Remondo from La Vendimia or Yé-Yé Tempranillo
3. Primitivo or Zifandel
Primitivo and Zinfandel are both clones of the Croatian Crljenak grape. Primitivo is grown in Italy, and Zinfandel mainly in California. Both have a rich, jammy fruit flavour, with cherries, strawberries, raspberries, and raisins, accented with spice and floral notes. They are both high in alcohol and low in tannins, but Zinfandel tends to be the more alcoholic of the two, which in turn reduces the acidity and tannins, making it a sweeter, fruitier wine than its Italian cousin. Our favourites of each type are Rancho Zabaco Zinfandel and Gran Maestoso Primitivo
4. Bonarda (also known as ‘Douce Noir’)
Argentina’s best-kept secret, Bonarda is another great value option for your homemade Sangria. It is full of rich, fruity notes like red cherry, plum, raspberry and blueberry, with accents of chocolate, mint, peonies and violets. It has a smooth, medium-tannin finish, and a juicy acidity. We like Catena from Alamos, or Zuccardi Serie A Bonarda.
5. Nero d'Avola
A dark, elegant wine from Sicily, Nero d’Avola has a complex flavour, with a rich bouquet of cherry and plum, notes of liquorice, tobacco and chilli pepper, and a dark raspberry and chocolate finish. It has a high alcohol content, medium acidity and medium tannins. We recommend Cantine Barbera or Tenuta Fenice
Some Other Great Red Wines for Sangria
Merlot is one of the world’s most popular red wines, its elegant, fruity taste and soft body making it particularly easy to drink. It has a plummy flavour, with notes of chocolate, and supple medium tannin levels.
Argentina’s most popular wine is versatile and easy to drink, with an intense, inky-red colour, and a velvety texture. It is a medium to full bodied wine, with a bouquet of rich, dark fruit flavours and a smooth chocolatey finish. Malbec can be somewhat high in tannins, so pick an older wine, where the tannins have softened.
The most widely-planted red grape in the world, Cabernet Sauvignon is a full-bodied wine with a deep red colour. It has notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, black cherry, cedarwood and dark spices. Again, Cabernet Sauvignon is relatively high in tannins, and can be a little acidic, so an older wine would work better with Sangria.
Light, fruity Pinot Noir is a classic, easy-drinking red wine with low tannins and a slightly sweet taste. It has notes of cherry, raspberry, strawberry, and blackberry with a finish of cloves and hibiscus.