The 5 Best Red Wines for Sangria

The 5 Best Red Wines for Sangria

Jayme Henderson
Jun 4, 2014
(Image credit: Jayme Henderson)

So, you’ve taken notes from Emma on how to make the perfect red wine sangria, and you’re ready to make your first pitcher. But which red wine should you use? Most recipes simply call for the broad category of "dry red wine." Let’s take away the guesswork and narrow down some specific styles of wine that deliciously complement the fresh, fruity essence of summer sangria.

A traditional Spanish libation, sangria is a wine-based "punch" that includes seasonal fruit, a sweetener, brandy, and sometimes a splash of soda water.

Wine takes the center stage in this cocktail, so choose a wine that is fruity but dry, has good acidity, and is lower in tannins. Feel free to try other fruit-driven wines, like Merlot or Malbec. Just select a style that is not too tannic or heavily oaken.

The 5 Best Wines for Summer Sangria

Here are five specific wines that fit those guidelines.

1. Garnacha - Garnacha (grenache grown in Spain) generally has lower tannins, showcases rich red fruits, and has great acidity. These characteristics make garnacha my personal go-to for making stellar red sangria.

2. Tempranillo - Tempranillo, another Spanish varietal, provides a deep hue; lush texture; and notes of black cherries, blackberries, and cola. Choose tempranillos labeled as “Crianza” or “Joven” to avoid a heavily oaked flavor.

3. Primitivo or Zinfandel - Iterations of the same grape, primitivo (from Italy) and zinfandel (grown mostly in California) are excellent for sangria. The wines usually exhibit rich, jammy fruits, accented with spice and floral notes.

Already have a great bottle of red wine on hand? Follow this simple recipe, and you'll be sipping on sangria tomorrow.
(Image credit: Leela Cyd)

4. Bonarda - Argentina’s lesser-known gem-of-a-wine, bonarda, is usually lower in price, offering a great value for its lush, fruity style. Bonarda is often blended with other varietals, but on its own, it delivers rich raspberry- and plum-driven, ripe juice.

  • Good pick: Catena from Alamos - Grape: Bonarda. Region: Mendoza, Argentina. Year: 2012. Average price: $10

5. Nero d’Avola - Grown and produced in southern Italy, Nero d'Avola is dark, soft, and juicy. Nero d’Avola also makes wonderful expressions of dry rosé — great to use in a lighter-style sangria, such as Maureen's Strawberry & Limoncello Rosé Sangria.

  • Good pick: Cantine Barbera - Grape: Nero d’Avola. Region: Sicilia DOC, Italy. Year: 2012. Average price: $18

A Few Tips for the Perfect Summer Sangria

  • If the wine you chose is too dry for you, sweeten your sangria by adding more fruit juice, simple syrup, agave nectar, or a splash of tonic water.
  • Make sangria a day ahead, so flavors can integrate (kind of like how homemade soup tastes so much better the next day).
  • Use a good wine, but don't go too crazy on the price. Choose a bottle you wouldn’t mind enjoying on its own. Wine is the base ingredient, after all, so let it shine!
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