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9 Types of Red Wine for Making Sangria

Mix up a delicious red sangria with a bottle of these wines.

A cool glass of red sangria is the perfect way to enjoy a warm summer evening. It’s easy to look at pictures of perfectly-crafted pitchers of sangria and think there’s no way you can do it, but trust me, it’s not as hard as it looks.

Pouring red wine into the glass against rustic background

There’s a fun fact I’d like to share before diving into explaining what you need to gather for your deliciously-fruity boozy beverage.

Under European Union regulations, the drink must be made in Spain or Portugal to officially be labeled sangria. But since you’re putting together a pitcher for personal consumption, feel free to call it whatever you’d like.

Sangria recipes vary immensely, even in Portugal and Spain. So, don’t spend too much time worrying if you’re getting it just right.

You can tweak just about anything to your heart’s content so long as you stick to the foundation of red wine and fruit.

Best Red Wine for Sangria 

I’ve put together a list of some of the best red wines for sangria to help ensure you set yourself a firm foundation for this delicious summer beverage.


Garnacha 

Garnacha, also commonly known as Grenache, is a tasty red that’s especially popular in Spain and France.

This wine is naturally fruity and low in tannins, which makes it a smooth base to mix in the rest of your ingredients.

You can find both sweet and dry Garnacha wines, and while I prefer dry for sangria to balance the sweet fruit feel free to experiment with your pallet.

I recommend going with raspberry, strawberries, and black cherries as your fruits of choice for your Garnacha sangria.

The wine already features notes of these fruits, so the sweetness added enhances the flavors already present in the wine.

Throw in some star anise and cinnamon if you enjoy a bit of spice with your sweet. 


Tempranillo

Tempranillo derives its name from the Spanish word meaning early, which references the fact it ripens earlier than other Spanish red grapes.

This versatile wine is a popular choice to blend with other red wines, such as Merlot and Garnacha due to its low sugar content and acidity. The flavor is known for its spicy undertones that get deeper with age.

The dry spiciness of Tempranillo makes it a great wine to pair with citrus fruits. Cut some pineapples and oranges to add them to your pitcher to add acidity and sweetness to your sangria.

I suggest adding some fresh orange juice as well. Not too much, about a cup depending on the size of your pitcher.


Zinfandel 

Zinfandel is a wine that originated in Croatia and is popular today in California, making up more than 10 percent of the grapes grown in the state.

Zinfandel is known for its sweetness as a red but is probably more popular for its semi-sweet White Zinfandel rosé variety.

White Zinfandel makes delicious sangria with a twist. Mix in some fresh lemon juice and club soda to perk up the wine before tossing in some sweet fruit to balance things out.

You can also use red Zinfandel for a classic red sangria, though! Add orange liqueur or orange juice, orange slices, apple slices, and other fruit.


Rioja

Wine has been made in the Rioja region of Spain for nearly a thousand years.

Sangria was first bottled in the region in the 1960s, which is at least partially responsible for the drink’s worldwide popularity.

Bodegas Rioja Santiago exhibited their sangria at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, after which it was marketed globally.  

Rioja wines are traditionally used to make a sweeter sangria. I recommend mixing in a pump or two of your favorite liquid cane sugar along with orange juice, oranges, and apples.

Many people also enjoy adding extra alcohol, with brandy and rum being popular choices.

The subtle sweetness of brandy enhances the sweetness of your drink, while a small amount of spiced rum can add a little heat to balance things out if you find it already too sweet.


Malbec

Malbec is a significantly different wine depending on where the grapes are grown.

The wine mainly comes from Argentina, where the flavor is fruit forward with notes of berries and plum, but the wine is more acidic and peppery when made from grapes grown in France.

Even fruit-forward Malbec is dry, making it a perfect wine for a sweet and fruit-heavy sangria.

Toss in slices of pears and apples with a dash of simple syrup, and you’ll have a lip-smacking drink to enjoy outside on a warm summer night.

You can also add a small amount of rosemary or spiced rum to balance the sweetness if you find the taste too syrupy. 


Nero D’Avola 

Nero D’ Avola has been widely grown and consumed in Sicily for centuries.

This full-bodied dry wine boasts high tannins that give it a distinctive licorice flavor. It also has fruity notes of plum and black cherry. 

This red wine is popular in Italy as the base for Christmas sangria. Combine the wine with orange juice and a spiced syrup of water, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves.

Then toss in some apples, cranberries, and oranges. Brandy goes well with this drink if you want to up the alcohol content. 

Serve with a cinnamon stick, and you have a drink fit for Santa to enjoy once he’s done driving the sleigh. 


Monastrell

Monastrell is a deep red wine found primarily in Southern France and Central Spain, where it has been cultivated for around 1500 years.

The high tannins wine is so dry its French nickname is Étrangle-Chie, which translates to the dog strangler. 

The high tannins also make this a great wine to make a spicy sangria. Forgo extra sugar and let apples and cranberries provide the right amount of tarty sweetness.

Spice things up with cinnamon, clove, and anise to draw out Monastrell’s underlying fruity tones. 


Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a fickle and difficult to grow French grape, making the wine pricey for a good bottle.

The light-bodied wine is dry, but smooth tannins give it a silky and non-bitter taste that is pleasing to the pallet. Pinot Noir has a complex flavor, with the perfect blend of fruit and spice. 

The spiciness of Pinot Noir is more than enough to stand out on its own. I recommend focusing on adding sweetness to this sangria.

You can go with orange juice, but I’d pour in some triple sec liqueur which also helps up the alcohol content. Throw in some limes, oranges, and your choice of berries to finish off this delicious drink. 


Lambrusco 

Lambrusco is an Italian staple. The grapes were cultivated by the Etruscan peoplenas early as a thousand years ago.

It’s a fruit-forward wine featuring notes of berries and rhubarb that comes in dry and sweet varieties. The sweet wine was the biggest-selling imported wine in the United States in the 70s and 80s. 

I recommend going full-sweet for this sangria. Grab and bottle sweet Lambrusco and combine it with your favorite orange soda for an extra sweet and bubbly beverage.

Continue with the orange theme by adding orange slices for more sweetness and citrus flavor. 


Best Red Wine for Sangria 

  1. Garnacha 
  2. Tempranillo
  3. Zinfandel 
  4. Rioja
  5. Malbec
  6. Nero D’Avola 
  7. Monastrell
  8. Pinot Noir
  9. Lambrusco 

Final Thoughts

Sangria is one of the world’s classic alcoholic drinks.

You can enjoy it chilled and fruity in your backyard on a warm summer evening, or warm and spiced by the fire during the holidays. It’s a versatile drink that’s delicious any way you drink it. 

Part of the fun for me is the culinary science behind mixing certain wines with certain fruits and spices.

I’ve given my recommendations on the best wine for sangria and the best things to mix it with, but at the end of the day, remember that the fun is experimenting with things that you like to create the perfect sangria for your taste. 

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin lives in East Passyunk and enjoys checking out the local restaurants in South Philly and beyond. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.