In Vino Veritas: White Sangria (Without the Headache)
By: Bianca Blanca Rioja, August 30, 2012
BIANCA BLANCA RIOJA - Born to humble grape harvesters in an oak barrel outside of Barcelona, Bianca has traveled the world performing flamenco and sampling the fruits of Bacchus' labor. While no wine is too complicated or indulgent for her, Bianca specializes in big flavor with small price tag. Vino es pasiÃ³n!
There are millions of recipes for both red and white sangria out there. But sometimes the best experiments can lead to the worst hangovers. My recipe for white sangria honors the beverage’s Spanish roots while keeping new styles of wine for the budget-conscious and hangover-wary host in mind.
The first rule of thumb that will make or break any sangria: don’t use any sweet wines! Stay away from Chenin Blanc, Gewürtstraminer, Riesling and especially Moscato!
While great on their own, the residual sugar left in these wines, mixed with fruit and other ingredients, not only makes the combo sickeningly sweet but also makes it harder for your body to process the alcohol.
Thus, the nasty headache at the end of the night and an unruly morning.
Choose a white wine that has some herbal, grassy and crisp notes. Even if those qualities are not something you typically go for, a clean bright finish and a tart hit of acid will complement and accentuate the fruits and alcohol in your sangria. I love to use vinho verde, pinot gris, Grüner veltliner, pinot grigio, or unoaked chardonnay.
It might be tempting to use up that old gross bottle of cheap California chardonnay, but the heavy oak element in those wines is almost impossible to cover up. Don’t be afraid to use a blend of sauvignon blanc and another white grape. Simply check out the back label and see what's listed.
Above all, get a magnum 1.5 liter-size bottle and get it cheap! Sensi Pinot Grigio rings in at $14, Zestino Pinot Grigio at $10, and Casa Lima Lab offers a 750-ML wine blend at $8.
Pack a punch
Before you open up your vino, get out a big pitcher but don’t add any ice. You don’t want to water anything down until it hits the glass. I like to layer the fruit so that as it saturates into the wine you can watch the color slowly change
Here's what you need:
- 2 oranges with peel but without seeds, sliced into wheels
- 2 cups of strawberries, sliced into halves. Keep them big so that the berries don’t break down all the way into pulp. This will change the wine into a blush color and soften the tart acid of the wine. Everybody loves to eat the strawberries at the bottom of the glass, so don’t skimp out.
- 2 pears or unripe peaches (depending on the season), diced. Not only do these fruits add a clean zest to the wine, their texture is ideal for staying intact in the sangria.
- Add whatever other fruits are available but don’t use lemon at all. It’s simply too sour and will overpower all the other flavors. Ripe mango can be an excellent addition but more than half will make your concoction too sweet.
- ½ cup of Cointreau. This delicious orange liqueur accelerates the fusion of the wine and fruit and kicks the sangria’s buzz factor up a notch. Cointreau can be expensive but is available in nip size. Two to three nips will do the trick and cost around $6. You can use Triple Sec instead, but it doesn’t have the same amount of flavor and is very high in cheap sugar—thus a recipe for a headache.
- Great fruity Cava can be found for around $9 per bottle. Pour in the whole bottle and stir once—or add separately atop each glass.
Once all your fruit and brandy are in the pitcher, pour in 1.5 liters of a white wine of your choosing, slap on the lid, and put it in the fridge. Some purists say that it isn’t sangria unless the mixture has been blending for at least 24 hours. I have never been that patient. Two hours is plenty of time but 4 hours is much better. You can tell it’s ready when the liquid turns pale pink.
Ice up some big wine glasses and you are almost ready to pour. Last—but certainly not least—pop open a chilled bottle of Cava sparkling wine. Cava is an inexpensive and playfully zesty sparkler from Spain that will set off the final stages of the sangria and bring it (and your party) to life. The bubbly texture also amplifies the fruits and flowery notes of the wine.
There you have it: around 3 liters of a delicious party pleaser that will make your mixer the talk of the town for under $25.