Avoid the Bad Stuff: Let’s get to the most important item first: Do not use wine in your sangria you wouldn’t want to drink by itself. This is not to say that you should add Chateau Mouton-Rothschild to your sangria pitcher. But the quality of the wine can permeate your final creation, so it’s not advisable to use stale or inferior wine in your sangria.
Red Sangria: If you are going to make traditional red sangria, make your base an inexpensive but delicious red that is medium-to-full bodied, with plenty of fruit flavor and not an excessive amount of tannic bitterness. Following the time-tested maxim of what “grows together, goes together,” I’m partial to using wine from the sangria homeland of Spain. A generous, juicy Rioja is the logical choice, as would be a ripe pick from the up-and-coming regions of Jumilla or Bierzo.
White Sangria: For the less common but equally charming white sangria, the best call is a casual white that has plenty of fruit flavor but not is inordinately vanilla-y from contact with oak barrels. Again sticking close to a traditional sangria zone, I go to Portugal for Vinho Verde, the light, zingy white that is rarely more than $10. Another tempting indigenous choice is Torrontes, the medium-weight, highly floral white from Argentina that is fast gaining favor among wine enthusiasts.
Putting It All Together: As I demonstrate in this video, making sangria is straightforward and painless. Just remember to muddle your fruit, chill the mixture overnight and use roomy glasses.
Mark Oldman is a wine expert, acclaimed author and lead judge of the series The Winemakers. He shares with readers the basics of wine, while making it fun and practical.